Imagine reading a book in a clement weather with a glass of wine and a bowl of strawberries while the sky is painted in orange and purple brush strokes. This is not something right out of a fairy tale, because this balmy setting is not fictional and is rather the country’s first ‘village of books’. The sleepy village of Bhilar, lying between the picturesque hill stations of Panchagani and Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra, was for long known for its strawberry cultivation with no literary pretensions until it embraced the tag of being the first ‘village of books’.
The hamlet has turned into dear spot for bibliophiles to promote the culture of reading and lure visitors who are keen to spend hours on end immersed in their favourite picks. The idea was inspired by Hay-on-Wye, a Welsh village which is informally known as the ‘town of books’. Drawing inspiration from this book town, even South Korea came up with its own book cities- Paju Book City and Petite France are welcome escapes for book readers from any other bustling and crowded Korean cities like Seoul.
The concept was mooted by the Marathi Bhasha department and Rajya Marathi Vikas Sanstha back in May 2017. And after the Maharashtra government has made the concept their own and expanded its scope, Bhilar is now a unique village with 25 artistically decorated locations being turned into reader hot-spots. Books range from literature, poetry, women and children and history to environment, folk literature, biographies and autobiographies and each home is allotted books of one genre.
Bhilai, apart from being a wonderful tourist spot is a reader’s paradise. So next time, you’re in need of a unique reading experience, visit the village, drop by a house, pick your favourite book and read it to your heart’s content.