Visa hopefuls make a beeline here

Visa hopefuls make a beeline here
Times are changing and so are people's ways of offering prayers to gods for fulfilling their wishes.  In Chennai, a Ganesha temple attracts hordes of devotees, most of them visa seekers to study or work abroad, as they strongly believe that the presiding deity will bless them.

Most hopefuls are youngsters and they have faith that Lord Ganapathi will be “kind” and will ensure that their visas are granted without any hitch.

The temple of Sri Lakshmi Visa Ganapathi, with visa written in red colour, is situated at Brindavan Nagar at Nanganallur in Chennai.

R Jagannathan, an early settler in Nanganallur, constructed a small temple outside his house some years back. His father brought the Ganapathi idol from Mamallapuram and installed it.

It all started a few years ago when some local people, who were planning to go abroad,  got their visas without much problem. They had placed their visa related documents in front of the deity before submitting them to the authorities concerned.

To begin with mostly people from Tamil Nadu were visiting the temple. As the word spread, more people started coming from other parts of the country with their wish list and slowly it came to be known as Visa Ganapathi temple.

At least two other places of worship in the country attract a large number of visa  seeking devotees. In Punjab, a gurudwara is believed to help those planning to immigrate to other countries. Once the wish is fulfilled, the devotees offer aircraft to the gurudwara. People believe that a visit to a temple  in Telangana is a sureshot success to get visa to go abroad. Believers throng this place—popularly known as Visa Balaji temple—at Chilkur in Ranga Reddy district, about 20 km from Hyderabad. 

 People seeking visas visit the Chennai Ganapathi temple and offer prayers to the deity and leave with a vow to perform “Archana” or special “Abisheka”  if they get their travel document.

Jagannathan, who retired as a consultant from a private hotel, receives regular emails from people living abroad, requesting him  to perform special “archana” and send the “prasadam” through courier.

“I receive mails from devotees in Singapore, the US, the UK and other European countries. They seek the blessings of Lord Ganesha before going abroad. I do get SMSes from the people, asking me to perform poojas on their behalf,” Jagannathan said. Jagannathan claimed that he does not accept any money or donation from the devotees abroad, who ask him to perform special poojas. “It is just their faith. I spend for them,” he added.

According to him, the temple is not there to make money. It has no hundi (offering box). Temple does not accept any donation. It is one of the ways to avoid VIP culture.

He said “devotees believe that Lord Ganesha has his 'own quota' for visas. The large number of devotees, both men and women, performing poojas is an indication of success rate of devotees,” Jagannathan claimed. Several hundred people offer poojas every week and the numbers multiply on Fridays, Sundays and public holidays.

Software engineers, who intend to work abroad, are regular visitors to the temple. “I am planning to go to the US and my interview at the Consulate for visa has already been scheduled. I have come here to seek the blessings of Lord Ganesha. I hope I will get the visa without much problem,” Ashok Verma (name changed), who came all the way from Maharashtra, said. “I am not superstitious but I hope there will be definitely divine intervention,” Verma said.  “We were upset about policies of the Trump administration. But, luckily, Lord Ganesha blessed our daughter with the H-1B visa,” S Kumar, a bank officer,  said.

Kumar said that his elder daughter is already in the US. “My elder daughter also sought blessings of Lord Ganesha before going abroad. She will visit this temple again during her annual vacation,” Kumar said.

It is not that devotees planning to go to the US only visit this temple. Ambika, a nurse from Kerala who had applied for a job in West Asia, visited the temple to seek the blessings of Lord Ganesha by offering special pooja.

“I came to know about this temple from my father, who is working in Chennai. I did not want to miss this temple before going to Kuwait,” Ambika said. She said she would inform her friends about the temple in her home town.

Bhaskar from Tamil Nadu, who was at the temple, said that he got job visa for Australia a couple of years ago. “In 2015, I got my visa to Australia. I am fulfilling my vow this year to the god,” Bhaskar said.

Poojas at Visa Ganapathi temple, which has a priest on demand, are conducted at the convenience of devotees. Priest V V Swaminathan stays near the temple and is available on phone.

“Sometimes I get calls late in the night. As per the wishes of the devotees, I perform special  poojas,” Swaminathan said.

He said children and college students also visit the temple during their exam time. “Most of them keep their papers near the deity and pray for success,” he added.

Interestingly, a few years back Swaminathan's predecessor, Ramanathan, also got his visa to work in a temple abroad.

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