The Wall Street Journal is amused. For it turns out that we have a Visa God in India. Actually, He is none other than Balaji, but this particular Balaji specializes in granting visas. You can read the entire article here, but since the WSJ requires a paid subscription, I shall copy part of the article below:
“Lately, the deity has grown particularly popular at the once-quiet Chilkur Balaji temple here, where he goes by a new nickname: the Visa God. The temple draws 100,000 visitors a week, many of whom come to pray to Lord Balaji for visas to travel or move to the U.S. and other Western countries.
Mohanty Dolagobinda is one of the Visa God’s believers. Three years ago, a U.S. consulting company applied for a visa on his behalf. It was rejected. When the company tried again the following year, Mr. Dolagobinda’s friends told him to visit the Chilkur Balaji temple ahead of his interview at the U.S. consulate. Weeks later, he sailed through the interview. “I’ve never heard of anyone who’s gone to the temple whose visa got rejected,” says Mr. Dolagobinda.
In the late 1990s, this small temple on the outskirts of Hyderabad — the capital of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh — drew just two or three visitors a week.
C.S. Gopala Krishna, the 63-year-old head priest of the Chilkur Balaji Temple, wanted more people to come. So he gave Lord Balaji a new identity. “I named him the Visa God,” he says. Now, Mr. Gopala Krishna’s temple is a hot spot. Billboards on the dirt road to the temple advertise English-language schools and visa advisers. Next to the parking lot, vendors hawk souvenirs and fruit.”
The WSJ is amused, but I am not so surprised. We Hindus are very considerate people, we do not believe in overburdening our Gods. So we have Ganesha, the remover-of-obstacles, Saraswati for education, Lakshmi for wealth and so on. Some of these Gods (and Goddesses) do have sub-categories. For instance, Dhaanya Lakshmi specializes in grain production, while Santhaana Lakshmi specializes in granting children. Both symbolize different forms of “wealth” (inasmuch as children are considered a source of wealth) and are therefore different forms of Lakshmi. We have hierarchies and categories and sub-categories, it’s all very well organized.
But then, as we go through life, we come up with really specific issues. Let’s say you wake up from a nightmare. What do you do? Well, you pray to Vishnu. Don’t believe me? Well then, next time you hear someone chanting the Vishnu Sahasranamam (the 1000 names of Vishnu) listen carefully – one of the names you will hear is “Dush-swapna-naasana” which means “destroyer of bad dreams”. So yes, banishing bad dreams is one of Vishnu’s responsibilities.
We humans need to learn about Specialization, Differentiation, Niche Marketing and all the other jargon in expensive MBA courses. Our Omniscient Gods have of course perfected all this stuff a long time ago.
So am I surprised that one of our Gods has decided to specialize in granting visas? Not really. Getting visas has become such a hassle these days that it makes eminent sense to have a special God of All Visas. I am glad one of our Gods has spotted this niche opportunity and decided to make it His responsibility.
But then, we have always had a very close relationship with our Gods. We do not fear our Gods, we love them, we treat them with affection and friendship. Our Gods take all forms from little kids to brothers to mothers. In effect, our Gods are like special family members.They participate in every major event of our lives – they attend our engagements and weddings, they even inspect our new cars and motorbikes before we ride them.
We bargain with our Gods, we even cut deals with them and bribe them “Please help me pass the GRE”, we say, “ and I will break 108 coconuts/ shave my head/ do XYZ pooja/ feed the poor”).
Would you go to the Ministry of Transportation to get a Driving License? No. You go to the RTO/DMV. So, isn’t it obvious that you would need specialized Gods for everyday life? I need a God to specialize in visas, just as I needed a specialized God to help me with my grades, another specialized God to help me stay healthy, and a third specialized God to ensure a successful career. We have a God for All Things, and other Gods for Every Little Thing.
I only wonder, is there a God (or Goddess) of All Blogs? A Blog Balaji? Or perhaps, a Blogyalakshmi?