Bhilar in Maharashtra is a small sleepy village and is located in Satara district near the beautiful hill stations – Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani. The village is known all around India for its strawberries and till date it had nothing to do with literature. However, now it has become the favourite destination for booklovers thanks to the recent declaration by Maharashtra Government that it has become the first-ever Pustakanche Gaav or village of books in the country. The project, inaugurated by Devendra Fadnavis – the Chief Minister – on May 4, aims to foster and encourage a culture of reading and also attract visitors, who would be looking forward to spend plenty of hours reading their favourite books.
This particular project is supposedly inspired by Hay-on-Wye, a dreamy Welsh market town that is reputed for its literary festivals and bookstores. Two departments of the state government – Rajya Marathi Vikas Sanstha and Marathi Bhasha – can be credited with coming up with the concept. 25 locations have already been chosen and then decorated artistically so that they can become the new reader hotspots. Here books on the following subjects would be displayed:
- women and children
- folk literature
- festival specials
Balasaheb Bhilare is one of the 25 hosts of said project and has already changed a part of his house into a free library. He is hopeful that this programme would breed the habit of reading in the youth.
A historic occasion
Devendra Fadnavis has said that this is a historic occasion. He has also said that this is a crucial moment in the state’s history. He feels that with this concept the residents of the hamlet have created their own special place in the social scene of India. It is expected that as a result of this programme, Bhilar would now be frequented by bibliophiles. He has also requested publishers and literary enthusiasts to host events over there for free.
How would the events help?
It is expected that with the help of these events it would be possible to preserve and promote literary ideas and literature in general. It is expected that the collection in Bhilar would primarily focus on Marathi works and thus be a definitive destination for people who love to read vernacular literature. Most of the 5000-odd people that live in this village, which is located in the beautiful Sahyadri Hills, work as strawberry farmers. In fact, a lot of tourists who come to this city do so because of the strawberries.
Some more information
It is expected that approximately 15,000 books in Marathi will be part of this collection. The state government has itself taken some positive steps in this regard by providing villagers facilities such as chairs, decorated umbrellas, tables, and glass cupboards so that they can provide the visiting readers a superb experience. It was on February 27, 2015, that the state government had declared its intention to start such a programme. Incidentally, February 27 is also celebrated as Marathi Language Day. The state government is also planning to host literary festivals during summers when nearby destinations such as Panchgani are visited by tourists.