The world is not so flat, God of Visas edition

From the Wall Street Journal:

Lord Balaji is one of the most-worshiped local incarnations of the Hindu Lord Vishnu. His adherents flock to his many temples to pray for things like happiness, prosperity and fertility.

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…

The Visa God’s growing celebrity reflects the rising frustration of educated Indians hoping to move West. In recent years, it’s become harder to win the employer-sponsored “H-1B” visas that let skilled professionals like engineers work in the U.S. While the U.S. limits the number of H-1Bs granted each year to 65,000, the demand for visas keeps rising…

On a recent Saturday evening, as a statue of the flower-draped Visa God sat at the back of the modest temple, a cross-legged Mr. Gopala Krishna took responsibility for the visa fervor. Around him, visitors were speed-walking, heads down, as they made the necessary 11 circles around the temple to gain the favor of the Visa God. The temple was about to close, and some visitors broke into a jog.

“At other temples, elders bring their children,” says Mr. Gopala Krishna. “In this temple, children bring their elders.”…

In 2005, some local newspapers wrote about the Visa God, just as new U.S. visa restrictions were taking a toll. Mr. Gopala Krishna and his relatives also launched a Web site and a newsletter called Voice of Temples, with features like a primer of sample prayers for help in visa interviews.

The temple’s popularity surged…

Praying to the Visa God is actually quite a bit more rational than current US immigration policy.