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India's Visa Temples Attract Devotees Aspiring to Go Abroad

CHENNAI, India (AP) — Arjun Viswanathan stood in the street, his palms folded, eyes mounted at the idol of the Hindu deity Ganesh.

On a damp morning, the ideas era skilled was once ready outdoor the temple, the scale of a small closet – slightly enough space for the lone priest to face and carry out puja or rituals for the liked elephant-headed deity, believed to be the remover of stumbling blocks.

Viswanathan was once amongst a few dozen guests, maximum of them there for a similar goal: To supply prayers so their U.S. visa interviews would cross easily and effectively. Viswanathan got here the day earlier than his interview for an employment visa.

“I got here right here to hope for my brother’s U.Ok. visa 10 years in the past and for my spouse’s U.S. visa two years in the past,” he mentioned. “They had been each a success. So I’ve religion.”

The Sri Lakshmi Visa Ganapathy Temple is a couple of miles north of the airport in Chennai (previously Madras), a bustling city at the Coromandel Coast in southeast India — identified for its iconic delicacies, historical temples and church buildings, silk saris, classical tune, dance and sculptures.

This “visa temple” has surged in recognition amongst U.S. visa seekers over the last decade; they are able to be present in nearly any Indian town with a U.S. consulate. They usually achieve a following thru phrase of mouth or social media.

A mile clear of the Ganesh temple is the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Navaneetha Krishnan Temple, the place an idol of Hanuman – a deity who has a human frame and the face of a monkey — is assumed to own the ability to safe visas. Sometimes called “Anjaneya,” this god stands for power, knowledge and devotion. On this temple, he has earned the monikers “The united states Anjaneya” and “Visa Anjaneya.”

The temple’s longtime secretary, G.C. Srinivasan, mentioned it wasn’t till 2016 that this temple was a “visa temple.”

A month in the past, Srinivasan mentioned he met somebody who were given information of his visa approval whilst as he was once circumambulating the Anjaneya idol — a not unusual Hindu apply of strolling round a sacred object or website.

On a contemporary Saturday night time, devotees adorned the idol with garlands fabricated from betel leaves. S. Pradeep, who positioned a garland at the deity, mentioned he was once no longer there to hope for a visa, however believes within the god’s distinctive energy.

“He’s my favourite god,” he mentioned. “In the event you surely pray – no longer only for visa – it’s going to come true.”

On the Ganesh temple, some devotees had luck tales to proportion. Jyothi Bontha mentioned her visa interview on the U.S. Consulate in Chennai went and not using a hitch, and that she had returned to supply thank you.

“They slightly requested me a few questions,” she mentioned. “I used to be pleasantly shocked.”

Bontha’s good friend, Phani Veeranki, stood within sight, nervously clutching an envelope containing her visa utility and supporting paperwork. Bontha and Veeranki, each laptop science scholars from the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh and early life pals, are headed to Ohio.

Each discovered concerning the visa temple at the social media platform Telegram.

Veeranki mentioned she was once fearful as a result of she had so much using on her upcoming visa interview.

“I’m the primary particular person in my circle of relatives to head the USA,” she mentioned. “My mom is afraid to ship me. However I’m excited for the alternatives I’ll have in The united states.”

Veeranki then passed over the envelope to the temple’s priest for him to position on the foot of the idol for a blessing.

“We’ve been listening to about programs being rejected,” she mentioned, her palms nonetheless folded in prayer. “I’m in point of fact hoping mine will get authorized.”

If she and Bontha make it to Ohio, they need to take a travel to Niagara Falls.

“I’ve at all times sought after to look it,” Bontha mentioned.

Mohanbabu Jagannathan and his spouse, Sangeetha, run the temple, which Jagannathan’s grandfather in-built 1987. Their home is on a cul-de-sac, which is thought of as unhealthy success in different Asian cultures. In Chennai, it’s common to discover a Ganesh temple outdoor cul-de-sac properties because of the conclusion that the deity has the ability to thrust back evil. In the beginning, best neighbors got here to the temple, Jagannathan mentioned.

“However over time it began incomes a unusual recognition,” he mentioned. “Numerous visa candidates who got here to the temple unfold the phrase that they discovered luck after praying right here.”

In 2009, his father, Jagannathan Radhakrishnan, reconstructed the temple and added the phrase “visa” to the temple’s title. Jagannathan mentioned the luck tales are heartwarming; guests infrequently prevent by way of his house to thank his circle of relatives for conserving the temple open.

“I’ve by no means been stricken by way of it,” Jagannathan mentioned. “We provide this as a carrier to the general public. It’s a pleasure to look how satisfied individuals are after they come again and let us know they were given their visa.”

His spouse mentioned she was once touched by way of the tale of a person who got here all of the means from New Delhi to hope for a visa to look his grandchild after 8 years aside. She recalls once more when a girl referred to as her in tears, pronouncing her visa utility was once rejected.

“Certain, some don’t get it,” she mentioned. “God best is aware of why.”

Padma Kannan introduced her daughter, Monisha, who’s getting ready to pursue a grasp’s level in advertising analytics in Clark College. Kannan believes her daughter were given her visa as a result of this tough deity.

“I discovered this temple on Google,” she mentioned. “I used to be so frightened for her, and so I prayed right here.”

Monisha Kannan mentioned she isn’t so positive she were given her visa as a result of this temple, however she mentioned she got here to enhance her mother.

“I’m skeptical,” she mentioned. “I’m simply somebody who is going with the drift.”

Her mom takes a extra philosophical stance.

“We pray for our kids and issues occur simply for them,” she mentioned. “I believe after they cross throughout the rigors of lifestyles themselves, they’re going to get started believing within the energy of prayer.”

Viswanathan mentioned he isn’t somebody “who typically believes in such issues.” When his brother were given his British visa a decade in the past after providing prayers right here, Viswanathan chalked it as much as twist of fate. He was a believer when his spouse were given her U.S. visa two years in the past, he mentioned.

The day after he visited the temple this time, Viswanathan’s employment visa was once authorized. He’ll head to New Hampshire in a couple of months.

“It’s all about religion,” he mentioned. “In the event you consider it’s going to occur, it’s going to occur.”

Related Press faith protection receives enhance throughout the AP’s collaboration with The Dialog US, with investment from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is just chargeable for this content material.

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