In the eight decades of its existence, over 100,000 people have opened accounts here. Ram Ramapati Bank in this popular pilgrim city is a bank all right, but it doesn't deal in money.
All that an account holder has to do is scribble Lord Ram's name 125,000 times on paper and keep it as a 'deposit' with the bank, in the hope that his or her prayers will be answered. Its 'clientele' is spread over the US, Canada, the West Indies and, of course, across India.
"After the sacred scribble is deposited by a particular account holder, we carry out a series of rituals that are aimed to bring prosperity and good luck to his life," Sumit Mehrotra, grandson of the Ram Ramapati Bank's founder, told IANS on telephone.
Like a bank which gives a loan, this institution claims to loan 'god's name' till the time an account holder writes Lord Ram's name the required number of times and returns the paper. Then the loan is considered repaid. Thereafter, the bank on its own conducts rituals for the account holder's prosperity.
All the papers are kept in the bank's compartments. The family members work in other professions and contribute their own money to keep the bank running. "Mostly people open their accounts in Ram Ramapati Bank to get their prayers answered. From opening the account to organising rituals for the account holder's prosperity, the bank does not ask for a single penny from its customers," he added.
The bank even provides free-of-cost paper bundles and a pen to its account holder for writing Lord Ram's name. Sanctioning of the loan in Ram Ramapati Bank too comes with unique terms and conditions.
"The foremost condition is that the account holder has to deposit all the sacred scribble within eight months and 10 days from the date of sanctioning of the loan," said Mehrotra. "There are other conditions such as the scribbling had to be done after taking a bath. Account holders are also required to shun non-vegetarian food, onion and garlic during the entire period of writing Lord Ram's name," he added.
The bank was established 84 years ago by Das Channu Lal after his spiritual guru told him to devote his life to Lord Ram. People from different walks of life are account holders of the bank. "From doctors, engineers to housewives - all have opened account in the bank for one reason or the other," said Mehrotra, who also owns a coaching institute in Varanasi.
Many claim their prayers were answered after they deposited the sacred scribble with the bank. "My sister was blessed with a baby boy after she opened the account and deposited the sacred scribble with the bank," said Arun Kumar, a resident of Sarnath locality.
Vishnu Sharan, a resident of a Lankan locality, said, "A few years back, my father was not keeping well. I consulted several doctors, but to no avail. Thereafter, I opened an account with the bank and some months later, there were positive changes in my father's health."
The bank is a family-owned 'business'. "Till date our family has not hired any employee for looking after the bank. Everything is managed by our family," said Mehrotra.