Kolkata Book Fair has been part of Bengal’s rich culture since its inception in 1976. Winter without the book fair is incomplete. The citizens forward to its book fair every year. With over 600 stalls, the fair is a fusion of literature and cultures– a be-all and end-all for bibliophiles in Kolkata and West Bengal.
The International Kolkata Book Fair is a one-of-a-kind event that offers tons of books from various authors, countries, and cultures. People travel and soak themselves in a magical zone like never before as there are art performances and food too. The 45th edition of the book fair held from 28th February to 13th March in 2022.
Who Organizes Kolkata Book Fair?
The International Kolkata book fair, also known as Antarjatik Kolkata Boi Mela or Antarjatik Kolkata Pustak Mela, is organized by the Publishers and Booksellers Guild every year. Presently, Sudhangshu Sekhar Dey is the Guild’s president. The International Publishers Association, Geneva, has recognized the Kolkata book fair and has incorporated it into the calendar of book fairs they publish.
Since 2018, the Fair has been held at the Central Park Mela Ground, Bidhannagar, Salt Lake. This quintessential Fair is mainly for the general people than the wholesale book distributors. Adhering to the Covid–19 protocols, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, and K. M. Khalid, Bangladesh State Minister for Cultural Affairs, inaugurated the Fair.
History Of Kolkata Book Fair
In the early 1970s, a group of literature enthusiasts was having a discussion at the Indian Coffee House at College Street about the Frankfurt Book fair. They wanted to replicate the commercial trade fair of books and give book lovers a place to exchange thoughts and ideas. The idea was discussed, debated, and finally given shape in 1975. Then the Publishers and Booksellers Guild came into being, with Sushil Mukherjee as its first president and Jayant Manaktala as general secretary.
1976 to 1980
The progressing youngsters of the Kolkata publishing fraternity disputed the idea in 1975. It took great ability and dexterity for the new Publishers and Booksellers Guild to pacify their affected sensibilities. With only 34 publishers and 56 stalls, the first International Kolkata Book Fair materialized in the city’s heart after a year of ideation on a patch of land between Victoria Memorial and the Academy of Fine Arts.
Since 1976, the International Kolkata book fair has taken over the city each year for 12 days, and it ran for 15 days 2007 due to heavy rainfall. The book fair is resilient because it had put itself back together after the fire in 1997 and ran for 20 days.
The Book Fair started on 9th March that year. It was not the best season for Kolkata because of the scorching heat and the threat of the nor’ westers. Finally, in the fourth year of the Fair, the Guild decided and resolved to organize it every year.
By the late 80s, the crowds were too large, and the stalls were in high demand for the fair to stay next to Victoria Memorial. It was moved to Kolkata’s lung, in the corner of the huge green Maidan. The new site became more centralize to the city.
1981 to 2007
It was moved to Kolkata’s lung- on the huge green Maidan. The new site became more central. The Maidan has always been an organic part of Kolkata’s winter. That corner used to be the home of the Book Fair for the next 15 years.
The venue of Maidan did not continue because the day before the 2007 edition, the Kolkata High Court declared that the dust and fumes from the Fair were causing damage to the environment as well as Victoria Memorial. The Kolkata book fair was rescheduled at short notice and was held 16 Km away at the grounds of the Salt Lake Stadium, where it was again flooded out due to unseasonal rain, and it ran for 15 days instead of 12.
2009 to 2022
In 2009, the Fair was held on the Milan Mela Ground near Science City on E. M. Bypass. Later from 2018, the location of the Fair was shifted to Central Park Mela Ground, Bidhannagar, Salt Lake, due to renovations.
The International Kolkata book fair 2021 was postponed to 2022 due to the outbreak of Covid-19. After a pandemic-forced gap of two years, the Kolkata book fair returned to the city, much to the joy of book lovers.
In 2022, the heartbeat of book lovers pranged into a joyous rhythm. The theme country of this fair was Bangladesh for the celebration of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence. The Bangladesh Pavilion is based on the iconic speech of Bangabandhu on 7th March 1971.
On 13th March, 2022, Guild announced the theme would be Spain for the 46th Kolkata Book Fair 2023. However, the date and venue for 2023 is yet to be declared.
Theme Of Kolkata Book Fair
Starting from 1990, the Kolkata book fair is themed every year based on a country. A Pavilion is provided to the theme country’s embassy at the fairground center. Moreover, the fair entrances are designed according to the theme based on a competition among various students of Kolkata.
Since the 80s, Kolkata book fair witnessed the theme as Russia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, France, Australia, Great Britain, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Spain, Cuba, and many more. The chief guests of the fair like Richard Dawkins, Gunter Grass, Mulk Raj Anand, Paul Theroux, and Alexander McCall Smith are dignitaries from the themed country.
Bangladesh was the theme in the 45th book fair (2022). Apart from it, the UK, USA, Russia, Italy, Japan, Iran, Spain, Argentina, Mexico, and several Latin American countries were placed in the International complex. The Fair is not only about books; it celebrates music, art, theatre, and all the things that add meaning to our lives.
Date And Location Of Kolkata Book Fair
|Kolkata Book Fair 2012||36th||France||25th January 2012 to 5th February 2012||Milan Mela Ground near Science City on E. M Bypass|
|Kolkata Book Fair 2013||37th||Bangladesh||30th January 2013 to 10th February 2013||Milan Mela Ground near Science City on E. M Bypass|
|Kolkata Book Fair 2014||38th||Peru||29th January 2014 to 9th February 2014||Milan Mela Ground near Science City on E. M Bypass|
|Kolkata Book Fair 2015||39th||Great Britain||28th January 2015 to 8th February 2015||Milan Mela Ground near Science City on E. M Bypass|
|Kolkata Book Fair 2016||40th||Bolivia||27th January 2016 to 7th February 2016||Milan Mela Ground near Science City on E. M Bypass|
|Kolkata Book Fair 2017||41st||France||25th January 2017 to 5th February 2017||Milan Mela Ground near Science City on E. M Bypass|
|Kolkata Book Fair 2018||42nd||Costa Rica||30th January 2018 to 11th February 2018||Milan Mela Ground near Science City on E. M Bypass|
|Kolkata Book Fair 2019||43rd||Guatemala||31st January 2019 to 11th February 2019||Central Park Mela Ground, Bidhannagar, Salt Lake|
|Kolkata Book Fair 2020||44th||Russia||29th January 2020 to 9th February 2020.||Central Park Mela Ground, Bidhannagar, Salt Lake|
|Kolkata Book Fair 2022||45th||Bangladesh||28th Feb to 13th Mar||Central Park Mela Ground, Bidhannagar, Salt Lake|
|Kolkata Book Fair 2023||46th||Spain||To be announced||To be announced|
How To Reach the Book Fair?
Once located in Kolkata Lungs, the Maidan, the book fair, has now been shifted to the new age city of Bidhannagar, Salt Lake. It is not only well connected to major parts of Kolkata but now has a functioning Metro network spanning over a distance of 6 km.
The nearest metro station and bus cum auto stand to the Fair is Karunamoyee, just a minute’s walking distance away. The State Government allocates various special buses and shuttles every year for smooth accessibility for the people of Kolkata and beyond to reach the venue without much hesitation.
Buses are allocated from all the parts of the city to reach and depart from the venue. Special auto-rickshaw services are also available during this time of the year.
Special buses are allocated by the State Government for easy accessibility from almost every corner of the city for the Kolkata book fair every year. You can avail them from Howrah Railway station, Sealdah Railway station, Dum Dum Railway station, Ultadanga, Santragachi Railway station, Joka and Behala, Garia, Jadavpur 8 B bus stand, Chingrighata More, Shovabazaar, Esplanade (Dharmatala) and Dunlop More.
S12, AC19, S16, AC9, S9, S4, S14, AC36, etc. are some of the buses for traveling to the book fair from various parts of Kolkata. Buses are more in number in the evening for easy access of the book lovers for their easy commute towards home.
Publishers, Authors, and Exhibitors in Kolkata Book Fair
Welcome to one of the world’s largest book fair, where disparate ideologies breathe the same air and novels on love are shelved with books, booklets and magazines on poem and short stories. From comics to fiction, painting books to medical, travel to wildlife, spirituality to science, history to literature- everything is available here. When visiting Kolkata book fair, look for the stall list and then plan your time.
The Fair offers a typical fairground experience with a book flavour- with artists, singers, songwriters, authors, writers, dramatists, dancers, actors, candy floss vendors, street food stalls, and whatnot. The book fair is also good for various small-scale writers and artists who are in financial distress or rejected by publishing houses but with strong willpower and dedication, showcasing their creations.
After 2 long years, the crowds have returned to the 2022 Kolkata book fair with long queues outside stalls of several Bengali and International publishers. The Fair usually hosts 800 stalls, but it was reduced to 580 stalls this year because of the pandemic. There are 9 gates and 200 Little Magazines. The collections are vast, ranging from classics, thrillers to non-fiction, sci-fi to manga, self-help, and more.
The whole venue of book fair is divided into four sections which is clearly visible on the map-
- Open Ground: The open ground consists of stalls of various National, International, and state publishers, institutions, universities, manufacturers, distributors, food, and many more. Example: Aajkal publishers, Chhaya Publication, Academic Association, University of Calcutta, Zoological Survey of India, Alliance broadband, Ananda Publishers PVT LTD, Dey Publications, Kolkata Police, etc. Other state publishers from Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka, Delhi, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu also participated.
- International: At the International complex, there are stalls with foreign books from different countries like Japan, Mexico, France, Italy, the USA, Spain, Russia, and Iran, which has joined for the first time.
- Inside Hall: In the 45th edition of the book fair, there were two auditoriums named after Sri Aurobindo Ghosh (Hall 1) and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose (Hall 2). English publications are primarily housed here. Example: Heritage publishers, Star World Book Center, Raja Rammohun Roy Foundation, Seagull books, Penguin India, Scholastic India PVT LTD., Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, etc.
- Little Magazine: A corner of the book fair is always reserved for these Little Magazines. Most of the small publishers of Bengali Literature have made considerable contributions to these magazines. They have prowled in the book fair premises giving away magazines to their promising readers.
Many authors, writers, directors, historians, and theatre personalities visit the book fair every year. Notable writers, litterateur, and dignitaries like Ms. Magela Baudoin, Beppe Severgnini, Ruskin Bond, Vikram Seth, Shashi Tharoor, Amit Chaudhuri, Mohammed Hanif, Chetan Bhagat, Nicholas Wilde, Mrinal Sen, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Suchitra Bhattacharya, Shakti Chattopadhyay, Jacques Derrida, Satyajit Ray visited and inaugurated the book fair over the years.
Beyond Book Attractions
A book fair is a place where the minds meet irrespective of creed, language, or religion- the perfect amalgamation of Art and Culture. The International Kolkata Book Fair has a lot of untold stories that deserve to be seen and heard by book and art-enthusiasts.
Seminars, Book readings, plays, dance, drama, drawings, paintings, street performances, and many cultural programs are held at the Literary festival every year. Furthermore, there is a children’s pavilion for the kids to indulge and enjoy themselves.
There are ample seating areas for the elders, organized musical and other art performances, direct interaction with the artists and authors, press coverage, food stalls, emergency, and medical services.
Many events are carried out in the auditoriums like book launches, dance events, musical events, and many other cultural activities. There are numerous stalls of jewelry, handicraft, clothing, and a lot of unique items by various artists all over the country, which attract people in between their book haul. If you like handicrafts and arts, Kolkata Handicraft Fair is a must-visit event for you.
A fair without food is absolutely not believable. Get a variety of cuisines for food lovers and those who want to take breaks between the buying books. Glorious Kolkata street food such as Rolls, Phuchkas, Mughlai, chaat, paratha, etc., are available in the food lanes of the book fair. Some of the food stalls even have longer queues than many other book stalls at the fair.
Frequently Asked Questions
The International Kolkata book fair, or the Kolkata boi mela, is an integral part of the people of Kolkata, which is held during the winters. It usually starts on the last week of January and continues till the mid-week of February at the Central Park Mela Ground, Bidhannagar, Salt Lake. The Fair is organized for a duration of 12 days every year. The gates of the Fair are open from noon and close at 8 pm. Thousands of people dressed in warm clothes indulge in the world’s largest non-commercial book fair.
Many people of Kolkata consider the book fair an inherent part of Kolkata, and instances of people visiting the Fair every day during its duration are not uncommon. With a total footfall of over 2.2 million people, it is the world’s largest book fair by attendance. Statistics say that the Fair has sold books that are worth 22 crores.
Kolkata Book Fair – Bottom Line
The International Kolkata Book Fair is a spectacle that is huge, loud, crowded, intellectual, artistic, musical, nostalgic, controversial, chaotic, and gastronomic. It encapsulates the character of the city and its most seen folk – literary Bengali in its way.
The book fair serves as a hub that caters to the intellectual and cultural curiosity of the masses, starting from kindergarten-going toddlers to the older generations. It has been a go-to place for every individual during winters. The book fair holds a lot of emotion for most of the people in Kolkata. The perfect mix of literature, art, music, controversy, facts, thoughts, and emotions can be found here.
The International Kolkata book fair or Boi Mela is a space where everyone converges. Readers rediscover their old love, non-readers discover their love for reading, and everyone returns with a book and some lovely memories. So, carry your travel essentials and enjoy Kolkata book fair.