Have You Been To The Village Of Books In Maharashtra?

A tranquil village located in Maharashtra's Satara district, the book village of Bhilar is comparable to Hay-on-Wye in the United Kingdom
Representative Image
Representative ImageEugenio Mazzone on Unsplash

Mahabaleshwar, the summer capital of the Bombay Presidency, stimulates the senses not only because of its natural beauty but also because of the delightful tales spun around its most popular sites. It is located in the Western Ghats, about 120 km southwest of Pune and approximately 285 km from Mumbai. Nature is exceptionally generous here, with craggy hills, waterfalls, dense forests, and rivers. It creates a twin prominent tourist destination with its neighbour, Panchgani. Though the strawberry farms and table plateau of these destinations are well known, not many know about the quaint book village that is located between the two places.

A road sign pointing to Bhilar
A road sign pointing to Bhilar@maharashtra.beauty/Instagram

A tranquil village located in Maharashtra's Satara district, halfway between the beautiful Panchgani and the hill station of Mahabaleshwar, Bhilar was once a strawberry farming hub, but it is now known as India's first book village. The village was chosen for a restoration in 2016, which changed it into a book village comparable to Hay-on-Wye in the United Kingdom.

The Origins

It took some time to complete the work. Different locations throughout the community were chosen to be made into reading hotspots. These areas were divided into categories such as poetry, history, literature, and others. The Maharashtra government commissioned several artists to paint the chosen spots. The village was formally named "Pustakanche Gao," or 'the village of books,' and opened to the public in May 2017.


Writing On The Wall

On the walls, you'll find a variety of genres of art that advertise the nooks you will find inside the homes. For example, a house decorated with Warli art depicting folk legends has several books on folk tales. The "Mangaltara" mansion, which is painted with pictures of forts and Maratha monarch Shivaji, stocks many history books. There are books on environment issues as well as nature, and other topics. Some houses stock biographies and autobiographies, including memoirs by Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Marathi social worker Dr. Prakash Amte, and others.

Around 25 families in the village have given parts of their homes as reading hubs, which stock nearly 15,000 Marathi and 500 English books given mostly by the state administration. Bhilar has also become somewhat of a centre for those looking to research a topic as some of the books available here are hard to find.

Things To See And Do

Mahabaleshwar has many walking trails
Mahabaleshwar has many walking trailsTropicana/WikiCommons

Hikes, Cycles, And Forts

Mahabaleshwar is a good trekking destination. Its slopes are home to a wide range of medicinal plants and herbs. However, there are 'softer' options, such as a taxi sightseeing excursion. Alternatively, rent a bicycle and peddle around with the wind in your hair. Many of the guardians of the ghats, a.k.a fortresses of yore, around the holiday hill town of Mahabaleshwar, still stand firm. Deeply embroiled in the history of Maharashtra, these mighty citadels are the ancient crowns of many a mountain in the land-locked interiors of the state. Check our list here.

Venna Lake

On the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani Road, Lake Venna is the ideal place for an evening outing after you are done with all points, high and low.

Strawberries abound in Mahabaleshwar
Strawberries abound in MahabaleshwarKaustav Bhattacharya/Flickr Commons

Strawberry Fields Forever

Strawberries abound in Mahabaleshwar—jams, crushes, jellies, you name it and they’ve got it. Visit a farm to chug down a few milkshakes and learn a few things about strawberry cultivation. A visit to MAPRO on the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani Road must figure in your itinerary. The premises comprise a rose garden, the fruit juice/squash/crush factory, and a food court that offers several flavours of ice-cream and shakes including strawberry.

Places To Stay

If you’re escaping to the hill station for a peaceful weekend, Mahabaleshwar has many places you can stay in to fit any budget. You can find a list here and here.

Getting There

The nearest airport and railhead is in Pune (around 3.5 hours). You can hire a taxi from there.

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