Pilgrims flock to Indian temple said to grant U.S. visas

 

Donald Trump, look away now — devotees are flocking to a temple in southern India where a Hindu god is said to help grant U.S. and other visas.

About 500 years old, the Chilkur Balaji temple near Hyderabad was built as a shrine to Lord Balaji, a form of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Typically, worshippers perform a wish-making ceremony that includes making 11 laps around the inner temple. Sometimes they proffer their passports and make offerings of fresh coconuts.

If the wish comes true, they must return and make a further 108 laps.

In recent years it’s gained a reputation for helping smooth the red tape for Indians seeking overseas visas — so much so that it’s now known as the “visa temple.”

The trend began several decades ago, mostly among students heading to the United States. They would make the rounds and seemingly get luckier with visa lotteries.

“My own sister is in Belgium, in Brussels right now, so yes, it does work,” pilgrim Manjunath Singh tells CNN while performing his wish-making laps at the temple.

Over the years the temple’s reputation has grown by word of mouth and now attracts crowds who line up to make the rounds.

Its popularity is helped by pamphlets handed out at the temple that contain testimonies of success.

“Our lord is answering the prayers,” says one priest, S. Rangarajan.

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