Indian visa temple attracts devotees eager to go abroad

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CHENNAI, India (AP) — Arjun Viswanathan stood in the street, his hands folded, gazing at an idol of the Hindu god Ganesh.

On a damp morning, an information technology specialist waited outside a temple the size of a small closet. There was only enough space for a single monk to stand and perform pujas and ceremonies for the beloved elephant-headed deity. Obstacle.

Viswanathan was one of about ten visitors, most of whom were there for the same purpose. Prayers for a smooth and successful US visa interview. Viswanathan came the day before my employment visa interview.

“I came here and got my brother’s UK visa 10 years ago and my wife’s US visa two years ago,” he said. “Both were successful. So I have faith.”

The Shri Lakshmi Visa Ganapati Temple is a few miles north of the airport in Chennai (formerly Madras), a bustling metropolis on the Coromandel coast of southeastern India, and is home to iconic cuisine, ancient temples and churches, silk sarees and classical known for music. dance and sculpture.

This “visa temple” has skyrocketed in popularity among US visa applicants over the past decade. They can be found in almost any Indian city that has a US Consulate. They usually gain followers through word of mouth and social media.

One mile away from the Ganesha Temple is the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Navanita Krishnan Temple. Here, an idol of Hanuman, a deity with a human body and monkey face, is believed to have the power to secure visas. Also known as ‘Anjaneya’, this deity is a symbol of strength, wisdom and devotion. In this temple he has earned the nicknames ‘America Anjaneya’ and ‘Visa Anjaneya’.

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

“A few people who were praying for visas around that time spread rumors of success, and it continues,” he said.

A month ago, Srinivasan said he met a person who was informed of his visa approval while circling the idols of Anjaneya, a common Hindu practice of roaming sacred objects and places. .

On recent Saturday nights, believers decorated their idols with wreaths made of betel leaves. His S. Pradeep, who laid a wreath to God, said he was not there to pray for a visa, but believed in God’s unique power.

“He is my favorite god,” he said. “If you pray with all your heart, not just for a visa, it will come true.”

At the Ganesha Temple, some devotees shared their success stories. Jyoti Bonta said his visa interview at the US Consulate in Chennai went smoothly and he came back to thank him.

“They hardly asked me some questions,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised.”

Bontha’s friend Phani Veeranki stood nearby, nervously clutching the envelope containing her visa application and related documents. Her computer science students and childhood friends from neighboring Andorra, Pradesh, her Bontha and her Veeranki head to Ohio.

We both found out about Visa Temple on the social media platform Telegram.

Veeranki said he was anxious because he was looking forward to his next visa interview.

“I was the first family to go to America,” she said. “Her mother is afraid to send me, but she’s excited about the opportunities available in America,” she said.

Veeranki then handed the envelope to the temple priest to have it placed at the idol’s feet for blessing.

“I heard your application was rejected,” she said, praying with her hands folded. “I really hope mine is approved.”

If she and Bonsa can go to Ohio, I would love to go to Niagara Falls.

“I always wanted to see it,” Bonsa said.

Mohanbabu Jagannathan and his wife, Sangeetha, run a temple built in 1987 by Jagannathan’s grandfather. In Chennai, it is common to find Ganesha temples outside houses on cul-de-sacs as it is believed that God has the power to ward off evil. At first only neighbors came to the temple, Jagannathan said.

“But over the years it has developed a quirky reputation. Many visa applicants who have come to the temple have spread word of their success after praying here.”

In 2009, his father, Jaganathan Radhakrishnan, rebuilt the temple and added the word ‘visa’ to the name of the temple. Jagannathan said his story of success was heartwarming. Visitors stop by his house from time to time to thank his family for opening the temple.

“I never cared,” said Jaganathan. “We are offering this as a service to the public. It is a joy to see how happy people are when they come back and tell us they got their visas.”

His wife said she was touched by the story of a man who had traveled all the way from New Delhi to seek a visa to see his grandson eight years away. She remembers another time when a woman called in tears and told her that her visa application had been rejected.

“Sure, some people don’t understand,” she said. “God knows why”

Padma Kannan has brought his daughter, Monisha, who is preparing for a master’s degree in marketing analytics from Clark University. Kannan credits this mighty god with getting her daughter’s visa.

“I found this temple on Google,” she said. “I was so nervous for her, so I prayed here.”

Monisha Kannan said she wasn’t sure if the temple helped her get a visa, but said she came to support her mother.

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

Her mother takes a more philosophical position.

“We pray for our children and make things happen easily,” she said. .”

Viswanathan said he is not someone who “normally believes such things”. Ten years ago, when his brother, who prayed here, got a British visa, Viswanathan thought it was a coincidence. He said he became a believer when his wife obtained a U.S. visa two years ago.

The day after visiting the temple this time, Viswanathan’s work visa was approved. He’s heading to New Hampshire in a few months.

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


AP’s religious coverage is supported through a partnership between AP and The Conversation US with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.


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