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PRAYING HARD

How a 500-year-old Indian temple became a shrine for H-1B visa hopefuls

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Getty Images/Noah Seelam
Taking all the blessings.
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Devotees believe a visit to a 500-year-old temple in India could be their ticket to America.

On any given day, hundreds of tech workers crowd into the Chilkur Balaji Temple in Hyderabad, one of India’s biggest IT hubs, to pray to the “Visa God.” Their wish? The coveted US H-1B visa, which goes to just 30% of applicants each year. Located an hour’s drive away from Hyderabad’s US consulate, hopefuls seek divine intervention for the visa after bagging a job in the US.

The ritual to pray for an H-1B includes pradakshina, the practice of circling around an image, relic, shrine, or other sacred objects. In this case, it’s the idol inside the temple. At Chilkur Balaji, petitioners must make 11 rounds of the shrine, representing the soul and the body. If their wish is granted, they’re meant to come back and complete 108 rounds as a sign of gratitude.

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