Picture this You are strolling along Central Park fairground, with rows of stalls heaped with books flanking you. It's January, but the sun is warm. You are at Boi Mela&ndash or the International Kolkata Book Fair. For the locals, this isn't just your regular run-of-the-mill winter book fair it is so much more. Since its inception in 1972, the book fair has been the largest in the world by attendance, attracting a footfall of over 2 million.
The Kolkata Boi Mela is largely for book lovers and not wholesale distributors, making it the largest non-trade book fair in the world. Immerse yourself in the thousands of books available across most regional languages and scour the stalls for rare gems, both from Indian and international publishers. There are also regular author meets, so be on the lookout for writers you admire.
One of the unique aspects of the festival is that every year there is a country picked out to be that year's theme. The embassy of the chosen country is assigned a stall where visitors can go and check the items on offer. Many, though not all, book stalls incorporate the year's theme in their collection. The theme country for 2023 is Spain.
How to Prep
Since the fair is sprawled across a large expanse of ground, it is best advised to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk. All bibliophiles can indulge in as many as over 500 stalls selling a mix of old and new books and many rare collections.
Besides the towering books and many discussions, Kolkata's beloved Boi Mela is also the perfect place to have a pleasant evening with music and poetry recitals. There are dedicated events for budding writers, poets and painters wherein anyone can participate. There are talks, seminars, book releases and signings simultaneously happening with the fair. You can simply walk in any of the tents and participate. Although now discontinued, there also used to be a book auction on the last day of the fair, where all the unsold books would be up for grabs.
Arts and Crafts
When you get tired of browsing your favourite books, head to one of the many food stalls for scrumptious snacks. Besides the food, fun and music, there are also many stalls set up by sketch artists who will make your portrait for a few bucks. You can pick up handicrafts and knick-knacks for your friends and family as well.
As it is a big fairground with lots of food and paper everywhere, the possibility of littering is huge. It is best to carry your own water bottles and cloth bags to put things you decide to buy. Throw away food waste in dustbins in assigned areas to avoid litter.
The 46th edition of the International Kolkata Book Fair 2023 will begin on 30th January and run until 12th February. The book fair is open every day from 12 pm until 8 pm.
The fair will be hosted on the Salt Lake Central Park grounds.