Pustakanch Gaav – Book Village – Bhilar near Panchgani
Most trips to Panchgani start and end with a sandwich and a milkshake at Mapro. Our trip in May would have also been the same. But luck favoured us. While driving up to Panchgani, Vidhya saw a information board on the side of the road mentioning about “Pustakanch Gaav”. She immediately remembered reading about it in the newspaper a few days earlier and suggested that we should visit. We did and it was a good decision 🙂
Bhilar is a small non-descript village a few kms away from Panchgani. It is famous for its strawberry fields and folks who do manage to wander away from the main Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar road end up doing strawberry picking during the season. A couple of years ago, this village was chosen as a model village to establish a “library” in many houses. Many in the village volunteered (i think it is 27, but forgot the exact number) and all they had to do was to “donate” a room in their house to be used as a library. The govt did the rest – the books, the furniture etc.
So, what resulted was a drive-thru village with many mini-libraries. All the libraries are always open to public i.e. they are no locked. Any visitor can just walk in, read books without disturbing the house-hold. This was very cool and unique. We drove/walked around the village and visited many houses. Each library had a unique name and there were boards for directions.
I spoke to few of them and they were very happy about this initiative and it seems that the “reading habit” of the kids in the village has tremendously increased. Since it is a maharashtra govt initiative currently, all the books are Marathi ones. But i heard that may private players have shown interest and soon books in other languages will be added. Of course, people also go and donate books.
If you happen to visit Panchgani/Mahabaleshwar, allocate extra half an hour and visit this village. Very unique and you will fall in love with the concept. If you know to speak Marathi, even better. Interact with the villagers/kids and you will love the experience.
Directions to Bhilar: This map –> https://goo.gl/maps/hiEFgvqKEGPFMsxCA will give you the directions from Mapro. Of course, you should have a break at Mapro when you are there 🙂