Applicants for student and work visas to the United States and other countries pray at this temple ahead of their appointments with consular officers.
Indians may be the programmers of choice in Silicon Valley, but it not just their tech skills that got them there. Many ladoos and coconut offerings also paved their way.
Some of them undertook 119 pradikshnas before their departure from India at the Chilkur Balaji temple, which is situated amidst lushy green trees on the outskirts of Hyderabad on the banks of Osmasagar Lake.
This abode of Lord Venkateshwara is more popularly known as Visa Temple or Visa God. Applicants for student and work visas to the United States and other countries pray at this temple ahead of their appointments with consular officers.
K.K. Reddy of Secunderabad is convinced of its magic. Reddy, who has been living in the United States for the past 25 years, was initially rejected for a visa. He then visited the temple and performed all the rituals. Behold, his second visa application was granted.
“I visited the temple just before my interview for visa and sought the blessings of the Lord. Can you believe it, I succeeded! I succeeded! Got the visa,” said the New Yorker. Now whenever he revisits home, he makes sure to pay obeisance to the Visa God.
The temple, built in the 1300s and among the oldest in Hyderabad, has long been popular with devotees seek fulfillment of their dreams. It became a big draw among US visa applicants after news spread that several engineering students whose visas had been rejected, had received the visas on their second upon praying at the temple and seeking Lord Venkateshwara’s intervention.
The temple’s appeal has since grown manifold among visa applicants, according to Prof. M V Soundarajan who is Hereditary Archaka cum Trustee Chairman of Chilkur Balaji Temple.
An estimated 75,000 devotees visit the temple every week, but the visa devotees have attracted the most media attention. Indians constitute the largest foreign group to receive the coveted H1 visa. Perhaps it is no accident that Hyderabadis are among the largest subgroup of Indian techies. Indeed, even the religiously skeptical hedge their bets by making a pilgrimage to the temple in advance of their visa interviews.
During the visit, devotees undertake prayer rituals, which include 11 pradikshnas, or rounds of the inner shrine. Once the wish is fulfilled, devotees return to take 108 rounds of the sanctum sanctorum to thank Lord Venkateshwara for granting their wish. Often the wishes of devotees are visa related, thus Chilkur Balaji is also referred to as “Visa” Balaji.
Hari Rao wants to join the University of Houston. He has strong faith in Visa Balaji and claims that a large numbers of IT professionals like him successfully obtained their visas after praying at the temple.
Like Rao, hundreds of students planning higher studies in the USA, Canada or Australia or professionals seeking a H1(B) visa to the USA take a pilgrimage to the temple for Visa Balaji’s blessings ahead of applying for their visas. They are convinced that Visa Balaji will ensure that the consular staff stamps their passports without a hitch.