Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Curious case of Visa Balaji

A few months ago, one of my friends told me he has to apply for U.S. Visa, so he needs to go to Hyderabad for it. I was perplexed that why do he needs to go so far when he can easily apply from Pune. Then he mentioned a temple’s name in which he will pray to get U.S. Visa. Before that I had not heard about the place he mentioned, Chiklur Balaji which is a must stop for every Visa aspirant. Chiklur Balaji Mandir is a small temple located in the outskirts of Hyderabad. So, recently when I was in Hyderabad I decided to visit the place and try to find the story behind it.

I reached Chiklur early morning to avoid crowds but there were already a lot people queuing to get in. Most of them seems city dwellers rather than mere villagers. Chiklur is located on the banks of Osman Sagar Lake. Quite Inquisitive I decided to explore the place and try to find this bizarre story which was connecting something superficial like a Visa to a spiritual deity.

I met Mohan and his family who had came from Bangalore just for praying to Lord Balaji. Mohan is a Software engineer working for a MNC. Rather perplexed I asked why he has come all the way from Bangalore which is quite far from here when he could easily have gone to another Balaji Temple at Tirupati. Mohan replied he always goes to Tirupati but this time the reason for his visit is different. He had applied for U.S. Visa and it has been rejected once. So, he can’t take any risk and came for blessing from the famous Visa deity himself.

It is believed here that there are two places where you need to apply for a U.S. Visa. One is U.S. embassy and other is Chiklur Balaji. If either of them is missed, you can’t get it approved. Kiran, a student who had applied for a Visa for his M.S. told me his brother’s Visa was rejected twice and got approved only when he came here and prayed to Lord Balaji. So, when he applied for his Visa, he do not take any chance and came to Chiklur for his blessings.

Sunder who owns a shop near the temple told me that in the 1980’s few of the students who faced rejection at the Chennai US visa consulate came here, prayed and then their wishes were fulfilled. Since then the temple has acquired the reputation of granting the elite American Visa and thousands of aspirants have came here, took a vow and received the Visa.

 There is a procedure which devotees follow and seeks blessings from the deity. After the usual prayer a devotee takes eleven Circumambulation of the inner shrine and take a vow. When his vow is completed, he has to come back and take 108 times walks around the temple. Most of the devotees are Visa aspirant and so popularly it is called Visa Balaji Temple.

Apart from the story behind the temple, the thing I liked most is that they were not accepting donations and money from anyone. There was one line and everyone was following the others. There was not separate line for riches and for those who can pay much to be in smaller queue as it happens in Tirupati.

So, If you are an American Visa aspirant and has failed to get the same once or twice, you must visit the place and give it a try. Perhaps your American journey is destined to begin from Chiklur.