If you are a book lover, then you too would have dreamt of visiting Hay-on-Wye, a village in the Wales countryside in England. The whole village is a bookstore, and it is a paradise on earth for bibliophiles. But now, you don’t have to travel so far. India has got its own first book village.
Nestled in the Sahyadris, between Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, Bhilar is India’s first book village. Over 75 artists have painted this hamlet, stretched over two kilometers, turning every corner into a reader’s nook. The village has over 20,000 books, and you can be sure to be baffled by the variety of genre and languages, in which you can find books here.
The setting could not be more perfect. With a balmy weather, surrounded by a thick forest and abundance of bowls of strawberry, you could lose yourself, and time travel anywhere to any epoch on history, just by turning a page in Bhilar.
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25 homes in the village have opened their doors to the travelling book lovers. Each house has painted walls. Some have the folk Warli work, and some have other aesthetic beauty around their homes. Each home has shelves and shelves of books. You can walk into any home, and you will be greeted by smiling families with a cup of hot ginger tea.
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A two-storeyed house, named Mangaltara, has walls painted with Maratha history and forts of Shivaji. It has shelves of books on history. In this way, each of the other 24 houses has something special inside and outside its walls.
Walking down the village, the homes with books are easy to spot, as they are marked out with colorful signboards. If you are lost, pamphlets with a map and short description of each location are also available at any of the book-homes, or the office headquarters.
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While you are there, also take a hike through the strawberry fields around the village. The popular Strawberry Cream dessert that everyone enjoys in Mahabaleshwar is made from the produce of this village. So, you could actually take a book, walk through the fields, and pick your own strawberries.
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Bhilar is five hours from Mumbai and two hours from Pune by road. You could take a day’s trip, or find accommodation in Mahabaleshwar if you get too lost in the books and forget to leave on time.
So, head to India’s first village now.