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

Published April 30, 2017
Hyderabad (Telangana, India): A devotee (right) receives his passport after it is blessed by a priest at the Chilkur Balaji Temple on Saturday.—AFP
Hyderabad (Telangana, India): A devotee (right) receives his passport after it is blessed by a priest at the Chilkur Balaji Temple on Saturday.—AFP

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 US visa.

The Chilkur Balaji temple dedicated to Lord Balaji — a re-incarnation of Hindu deity 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 say the place has 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” visas are highly sought after by aspiring Indian immigrants but Trump’s push to make the permits available only to the most-skilled or highest-paid applicants has many worried.

Software engineer Shreekanth Angirekula was among the fortunate ones, having recently 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,” Angirekula, 33, said. “I am not superstitious but there was definitely 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,” Rajan said.

“It’s all Balaji’s blessings,” he said, adding “it’s not superstition but spiritualism”.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2017

Opinion

Global governance
27 Oct 2021

Global governance

Wise countries design growth strategies as per their socioeconomic needs.
Too hot to handle
Updated 27 Oct 2021

Too hot to handle

Will Glasgow offer anything more than ‘blah blah blah’?
What a tangled web
Updated 26 Oct 2021

What a tangled web

So poorly kept is this secret about the opposition’s real hopes and no plans that even the government has figured it out.

Editorial

27 Oct 2021

Escalating prices

ONE question being asked by almost every Pakistani today is: for how long will we have to suffer food price ...
Another demolition
Updated 27 Oct 2021

Another demolition

THE closing act in the battle over the 15-storey Nasla Tower in Karachi has been set in motion. On Monday, the...
27 Oct 2021

A despicable custom

IT is a wonder that it took so long for the Federal Shariat Court to declare the practice of swara un-Islamic. To...
Perfect in every way
Updated 26 Oct 2021

Perfect in every way

GLORIOUS. Gratifying. Liberating. Pakistan’s thumping victory over India in their opening fixture of the T20 World...
26 Oct 2021

Balochistan CM’s exit

ON Sunday, Jam Kamal Khan Alyani’s name was added to the long list of chief ministers of Balochistan who ...
Minister’s odd logic
26 Oct 2021

Minister’s odd logic

THE government’s contradictions and confusion appear to have no end when it comes to dealing with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan.