In­di­ans throng ‘visa’ tem­ple to crack Trump’s visa curbs

New Straits Times - - World -

HY­DER­ABAD: Hun­dreds of In­di­ans gather daily at a 500-year-old Hindu tem­ple in south­ern In­dia where they pray for a sin­gle wish — an in­creas­ingly elu­sive United States visa.

The Chilkur Balaji tem­ple ded­i­cated to Lord Balaji, a re-in­car­na­tion of Hindu god Vishnu, on the out­skirts of Hy­der­abad city, has long been a one-stop so­lu­tion for prospec­tive In­dian im­mi­grants seek­ing US visas, earn­ing it the so­bri­quet of “visa tem­ple”.

But, tem­ple of­fi­cials said the place had seen an in­crease in vis­i­tors since the elec­tion of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who this month signed an or­der seek­ing to re­form the H-1B work visa sys­tem.

The H-1B work visas are highly sought af­ter by as­pir­ing In­dian im­mi­grants, but Trump’s push to make the per­mits avail­able only to the most-skilled or high­est­paid ap­pli­cants has left many wor­ried.

Soft­ware en­gi­neer Shree­kanth An­girekula, 33, was among the for­tu­nate ones, hav­ing se­cured a US visa af­ter re­peated re­jec­tions.

“It’s a miracle. I couldn’t get a visa for the last two years, but af­ter vis­it­ing the tem­ple ev­ery­thing went off smoothly.

“I am not su­per­sti­tious, but there was def­i­nitely a di­vine in­ter­ven­tion,” he said.

More than 100,000 devo­tees visit the tem­ple every week, for visas and other rea­sons.

They prof­fer their pass­ports and a flower be­fore the de­ity as they cir­cum­am­bu­late the in­ner sanc­tum of the tem­ple 11 times while chant­ing Hindu hymns.

Once the wish is granted, wor­ship­pers must re­turn to make 108 rounds of the sanc­tum.

Chief priest Ranga Ra­jan said devo­tees come from across the coun­try in pur­suit of visas.

“Same pass­port, same doc­u­ments, same em­bassy and same ap­pli­cant, but their visas were re­jected be­fore com­ing to the Lord. “It is all Balaji’s bless­ings.” He said “it’s not su­per­sti­tion, but spir­i­tu­al­ism”.

The sup­pos­edly mag­i­cal pow­ers of the tem­ple gained re­pute in the 1980s af­ter a group of en­gi­neers vis­ited the tem­ple to pray for visas.

They were all granted their wish, and soon, hordes of as­pi­rants fol­lowed in their wake.

“I have ap­plied for the visa for (my) stud­ies and I hope Balaji will make it hap­pen,” stu­dent Raja Shekhar Reddy said.

“This visit has boosted my con­fi­dence.” AFP

PIX AFP

Hindu devo­tees of­fer­ing prayers to Lord Balaji, known as the ‘Visa God’, at the Chilkur Balaji tem­ple in Ran­gareddy dis­trict, near Hy­der­abad, on Satur­day. (In­set) Shree­kanth An­girekula show­ing a copy of his and his fam­ily’s US visas.

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