Bhilar, a village in the Satara district of Maharashtra, has embraced the tag of being the first 'village of books'. The concept has been inspired by Britain's Hay-on-Wye, a Welsh town known for its bookstores and literature festivals. 'pustakanche gaon', as it is known in Marathi, was set up as the village of books on May 4, 2017, and this government initiative was inaugurated by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. This village, spread over two kilometres, is located at a distance of eight kilometres from the hill station Panchgani.
Education minister Vinod Tawde led the project that was undertaken by the department of Marathi Bhasha. Over 75 artists were requested by the Government of Maharashtra to paint the premises to be used as reader hotspots. There was a three-day painting camp held in which different artists participated and painted the walls with graphics as per the genre of book that was going to be placed there. The 25 locations designed will be turned into reader hotspots covering everything from history, poetry, and literature to autobiographies, biographies, and festival specials.
According to the Firstpost, Tawde said,
These artists voluntarily accepted our invitation and boarded a bus to Mahabaleshwar to paint the walls in the village with their imagination. The outcome was amazing for people to see.
According to The Times of India, Tawde said,
Around 15,000 books (in Marathi) would be made available in the village premises. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will inaugurate the initiative 'pustakanche gaon' on May 4. Also, the state has provided several facilities such as chairs, tables, decorated umbrellas, and glass cupboards to local villagers to help them enhance the reading experience of literary connoisseurs visiting there.
As per The Times of India, Tawde further said,
Now we are opening it to all who have a love for language and literature. All these books are going to be available free of cost to the readers.
This village is expected to have the highest per capita availability of books in comparison to other villages. The ratio of books to villagers will be 1:1 as 10,000 books will be made available for 10,000 people. Presently, the collection only includes Marathi books but it will be gradually expanded to Hindi and English books as well.
The intention behind developing the village of books is to promote tourism as well as Marathi. Regardless of the intention behind this idea, it comes as a breath of fresh air at a time when so many are forgetting the beauty of literature.