The deity, popularly known as Visa Balaji, is situated on the outskirts of Hyderabad near the Osman Sagar lake and is flocked by aspiring American visa-seekers.

The Visa God temple near Hyderabad where people come flocking to pray for US vias
Features Religion Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 05:30

In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, it is almost a religious ritual for many families to ensure that one family member works outside India.

An idea that captured the imagination in the late 1980s and earlier 1990s, one would think the surge towards economic patriotism in the last couple of years would have stemmed the wave of migration, but the trend only seems to have gotten stronger.

It is perhaps no wonder then, that the visa obsession even has a temple dedicated to it.
 
Every week, thousands of people throng the Chilkur Balaji Temple,also labeled as "Visa Balaji" which is situated on the outskirts of Hyderabad near the Osman Sagar lake, in a hope that their prayer too would be answered.
 
 
According to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), there were 4,38,19,750 Indians abroad in 2012. By January 2015, it has grown to 5,42,10,052 and a large chunk of this are people from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
 
The wave of migration from India was at its peak in late 2000's. Many young Indians migrated to Australia, USA, Canada and Europe. Most of the people migrated are still outside the country because of better living standards and higher pay.
 
 
"Every family has to ensure that at least one child goes to a foreign country even today, though Hyderabad is now an IT hub itself with many software giants setting up branches here," says a student, who recently paid a visit to the renowned Balaji Temple in Chilkur.
 
The deity, popularly known as Visa Balaji, is situated on the outskirts of Hyderabad near the Osman Sagar lake and is flocked by aspiring American visa-seekers.
 
The temple witnesses people from the neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharasthra and also Tamil Nadu, who go through the usual rituals of prayer and circle the inner shrine 11 times while making a vow.
 
Once the wish is fulfilled, devotees walk 108 times around the sanctum sanctorum.
 

The tradition caught on sometime in 1983-84 when one of the archakas, Gopalakrishna, circled the deity 11 times, as a well was being dug. As soon as he completed the 11th round, the workers struck water. Gopalakrishna then went on to complete another 108 rounds in gratitude.
 
Since then, the temple sees 4,000 to 5,000 devotees a day, with the rush increasing to bigger numbers on public holidays and weekends. Many also pay a visit to the Osman Sagar lake beside the temple to meditate.
 


"This is peak season. After they write their exams we get so many students who pray for their visa here. Sometimes, we get close to a thousand people on one day itself," says one of the coconut vendors, who sits by the entrance of the temple.

The temple is one of the oldest in Hyderabad, having been built around half a millennium ago. during the time of Akkanna and Madanna, the uncles of Bhakta Ramdas, a music composer and prominent devotee of Lord Ram.  


The temple does not accept any money in the form of tickets for puja or darshan and does not have a hundi. The only money it earns is in the form of parking tickets at Rs 10 per vehicle, it does not even have a hundi.
 
"The majority of the devotees are in the age group of 25 to 35 and the prayers are all visa related," says one of the officials with the trust fund of the temple, adding that a large majority of students get their visa after praying to the deity.

When asked if the number of students are decreasing in recent times, he says, "There is never a decrease. The number of students have been increasing every year for as long as I can remember."
 

 
According to a report in an online journal, As of 2013, more than 2 million Indian-born immigrants resided in the United States alone, accounting for 4.7 percent of the 41.3 million foreign-born population, making them the second highest immigrant group after Mexicans. Telugu speaking people make up the majority of this 4.7 percent.
 
This migration of skilled labor outside the country, also hits companies in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh hard, as they still suffer from a lack of skilled employees, even though they churn out a large chunk of engineers every year.

With the line of people waiting to go outside India not showing any signs of reducing, seems Visa Balaji will remain one busy god.
 

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