Monday, June 5, 2023

India’s Visa Temples Attract Devotees Aspiring To Go Abroad

by Deepa Bharat

CHENNAI, India (AP) – Arjun Viswanathan stood on the street, his hands folded, his eyes fixed on a statue of the Hindu deity Ganesha.

On a sultry morning, the information technology professional waited outside the temple, the size of a small cell – enough space for the priest alone to stand and perform prayers or rituals for the beloved elephant-headed deity, believed to be There are obstacles.

Viswanathan was among about a dozen visitors, most of them there for a single purpose: to pray so that their US visa interviews go smoothly and successfully. Viswanathan arrived a day before his interview for the employment visa.

“I came here 10 years ago to pray for my brother’s UK visa and two years ago for my wife’s US visa,” he said. “They were both successful. That’s why I believe.”

The Sri Lakshmi Visa Ganapati Temple is a few miles north of the airport in Chennai (formerly Madras), a bustling metropolis on the Coromandel Coast in Southeast India – known for its iconic cuisine, ancient temples and churches, silk sarees Known for classical music. dance and sculptures.

This “visa temple” has grown in popularity among US visa seekers over the past decade; They can be found with the US Consulate in almost any Indian city. They usually get a following through word of mouth or social media.

A mile away from the Ganesha temple is the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Navaneetha Krishnan Temple, where there is an idol of Hanuman – a deity who has a human body and the face of a monkey – believed to have the power to secure visas. Also known as “Anjaneya”, this god is a symbol of power, wisdom and devotion. In this temple, he has earned the nicknames “America Anjaneya” and “Visa Anjaneya”.

The temple’s longtime secretary, GC Srinivasan, said that it was not until 2016 that the temple became a “Visa temple”.

“It was around that time that some people who prayed for visas spread the word that they were successful, and it continues,” he said.

A month ago, Srinivasan said he met someone who got the news of his visa approval while he was doing parikrama of the Anjaneya idol – a common Hindu practice of walking around a sacred object or site.

Recently on Saturday night, devotees garlanded the idol with betel leaves. The one who garlands God. Pradeep said that he has not come to pray for the visa, but believes in the unique power of God.

“He’s my favorite god,” he said. “If you really pray – not just for a visa – it will come true.”

At the Ganesh temple, some devotees had success stories to share. Jyoti Bontha said her visa interview at the US consulate in Chennai went off without a hitch and she had returned to thank him.

“He barely asked me a few questions,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised.”

Bontha’s friend, Phani Veeranki, stood nearby, nervously clutching an envelope containing her visa application and supporting documents. Bontha and Veeranki, both computer science students from the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh and childhood friends, are on their way to Ohio.

Both came to know about Visa Mandir on the social media platform Telegram.

Veeranki said she was worried because she was very nervous for her upcoming visa interview.

“I’m the first person in my family to move to the United States,” she said. “My mother is afraid to send me. But I’m excited about the opportunities in America.”

Veeranki handed over the envelope to the temple priest to place it at the feet of the idol for blessings.

“We are hearing about applications being rejected,” she said, her hands still folded in prayer. “I’m really hoping mine gets approved.”

If she and Bontha move to Ohio, they want to visit Niagara Falls.

“I’ve always wanted to see it,” said Bontha.

Mohanbabu Jagannathan and his wife Sangeetha run the temple, which was built by Jagannathan’s grandfather in 1987. His house is on a cul-de-sac, which is considered bad luck in many Asian cultures. In Chennai, it is common to find Ganesha temples outside closed homes, due to the belief that the deity has the power to ward off evil. Jagannathan said that earlier only neighbors used to visit the temple.

“But over the years it started to earn a bizarre reputation,” he said. “Lots of visa applicants visiting the temple spread the word that they got success after praying here.”

In 2009, his father, Jagannathan Radhakrishnan, renovated the temple and added the word “Visa” to the name of the temple. Jagannathan said that success stories are heart touching; Visitors sometimes stay at her home to thank her family for keeping the temple open.

Jagannathan said, “I’ve never had a problem with it.” “We offer this as a service to the public. It is heartening to see how happy people are when they come back and tell us that they have got their visas.

His wife said she was moved by the story of a man who had come from New Delhi to pray for a visa to see his grandson after eight years. She recalls another time when a woman called her crying and told that her visa application had been rejected.

“Certainly, some don’t understand it,” she said. “God only knows why.”

Padma Kannan brought her daughter, Monisha, who is preparing to pursue a master’s degree in marketing analytics at Clark University. Kannan believes that his daughter got the visa because of this powerful deity.

“I found this temple on Google,” she said. “I was very worried for him, and so I prayed here.”

Monisha Kannan said that she is not sure whether she got the visa because of this temple, but said that she has come to support her mother.

“I doubt it,” she said. “I’m just a person who goes with the flow.”

His mother takes a more philosophical stance.

“We pray for our children and things go smoothly for them,” she said. “I think when they go through the rigors of life themselves, they will come to believe in the power of prayer.”

Viswanathan said that he is not “generally a believer in such things”. When his brother got a British visa a decade ago after praying here, Vishwanathan called it a coincidence. He said he began to believe when his wife got a US visa two years ago.

This time, a day after visiting the temple, Viswanathan’s employment visa was approved. He’ll be moving to New Hampshire in a few months.

“It’s all about trust,” he said. “If you believe it will happen, it will happen.”


Associated Press religion coverage is supported through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US with funding from the Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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