Pune: Bhilar, a small hamlet between the picturesque Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar hill stations in Maharashtra, turned into a paradise for bibliophiles last year after being declared as India’s first ‘village of books’. The artistically decorated libraries, spread across the ‘Pustakanche Gaav’, or the ‘village of books’, in Satara district are now set to cross the language boundaries and add books of Gujarati, Hindi and English languages to the shelves to cater to the non-Marathi tourists.
The project, launched by the Maharashtra government last year to promote the “culture of reading” and lure tourists, was inspired by Britain’s Hay-on-Wye, a Welsh town known for its bookstores and literature festivals. The concept was mooted by the Marathi Bhasha department and Rajya Marathi Vikas Sanstha, a government body.
“Currently, we have 25 locations in the village displaying Marathi books — ranging from literature, poetry, religion, history, environment, folk literature to biographies and autobiographies,” said Balasaheb Bhilare, who hosts a library in a portion of his house. “However, since Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar are popular tourist spots, a sizable chunk of visitors from Gujarat and north India also come to the village,” he said. A lot of tourists mentioned in their feedback to keep Gujarati, Hindi and English books at the libraries, he said. “So to cater to them, we have decided to increase the locations from 25 to 35 and add approximately 2,000 to 3,000 books from each language to it,” he said. Bhilare, who was instrumental in convincing the villagers about the benefit of the project, expressed hope that the addition of books of other languages will increase the footfall of tourists.
Vinay Mavalankar, the book village project in-charge, said state education minister Vinod Tawde is keen to add books of Gujarati, Hindi and English languages in these libraries. “The books will be selected with the help of literary committees of the respective languages under the Maharashtra government’s culture department and soon popular Gujarati, Hindi and English books will be stacked,”he said.