Pious Indians bank on holy deposits

NEW DELHI Fri May 6, 2011 4:41am EDT

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - In a bank with no security gates, guards or locks, deposits from thousands of customers from across India are stacked on shelves, protected from theft by the grace of god.

In a cramped room in a small house in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Ram Ram Bank offers no interest or loans, but has around 5,000 customers who flock to deposit documents bearing God's name.

"There is no need for security as there is no fear of any theft," said Lovelesh Tewari, who founded the bank 25 years ago.

"People feel better by writing God's name as it becomes a medium to release their pent up frustrations and eventually the faith makes them work toward their goals."

The bank's customers scribble "Ram," the protagonist in the Indian mythological epic Ramayana, on pieces of paper as many as 100,000 times and deposit them in the bank. Ram is also known as Rama.

Ram Ram used to accept scribbles on cigarette packs or on pieces of old newspaper. But now Tewari provides proper notebooks for the purpose, courtesy of one of his customers.

"My daughter got admission in the engineering college after I deposited Ram's name in the bank," says Shahikala, one of many happy depositors.

The bank's list of depositors includes bureaucrats, politics and members of the judiciary. Even the father of superstar cricketer Gautam Gambhir is a customer.

Religion is no barrier. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims write the name of Ram in their native languages.

Every six months the stacks of "deposits" are sent to be displayed in a temple in Ayodhya, the birth place of Ram.

Ram Ram's growing popularity has seen two new branches open in other cities, while Ram Ramapati Bank, a similar bank in the tourist city Varanasi, boasts customers from across the world.

(Editing by Henry Foy and Elaine Lies)

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