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Indians may be the programmers of choice in Silicon Valley, but it not just their tech skills that got them there. Many ladoos and coconut offerings also paved their way.
Some of them undertook 119 pradikshnas before their departure from India at the Chilkur Balaji temple, which is situated amidst lushy green trees on the outskirts of Hyderabad on the banks of Osmasagar Lake.
This abode of Lord Venkateshwara is more popularly known as Visa Temple or Visa God. Applicants for student and work visas to the United States and other countries pray at this temple ahead of their appointments with consular officers.
K.K. Reddy of Secunderabad is convinced of its magic. Reddy, who has been living in the United States for the past 25 years, was initially rejected for a visa. He then visited the temple and performed all the rituals. Behold, his second visa application was granted.
“I visited the temple just before my interview for visa and sought the blessings of the Lord. Can you believe it, I succeeded! I succeeded! Got the visa,” said the New Yorker. Now whenever he revisits home, he makes sure to pay obeisance to the Visa God.
The temple, built in the 1300s and among the oldest in Hyderabad, has long been popular with devotees seek fulfillment of their dreams. It became a big draw among US visa applicants after news spread that several engineering students whose visas had been rejected, had received the visas on their second upon praying at the temple and seeking Lord Venkateshwara’s intervention.
The temple’s appeal has since grown manifold among visa applicants, according to Prof. M V Soundarajan who is Hereditary Archaka cum Trustee Chairman of Chilkur Balaji Temple.
An estimated 75,000 devotees visit the temple every week, but the visa devotees have attracted the most media attention. Indians constitute the largest foreign group to receive the coveted H1 visa. Perhaps it is no accident that Hyderabadis are among the largest subgroup of Indian techies. Indeed, even the religiously skeptical hedge their bets by making a pilgrimage to the temple in advance of their visa interviews.
During the visit, devotees undertake prayer rituals, which include 11 pradikshnas, or rounds of the inner shrine. Once the wish is fulfilled, devotees return to take 108 rounds of the sanctum sanctorum to thank Lord Venkateshwara for granting their wish. Often the wishes of devotees are visa related, thus Chilkur Balaji is also referred to as “Visa” Balaji.
Hari Rao wants to join the University of Houston. He has strong faith in Visa Balaji and claims that a large numbers of IT professionals like him successfully obtained their visas after praying at the temple.
Like Rao, hundreds of students planning higher studies in the USA, Canada or Australia or professionals seeking a H1(B) visa to the USA take a pilgrimage to the temple for Visa Balaji’s blessings ahead of applying for their visas. They are convinced that Visa Balaji will ensure that the consular staff stamps their passports without a hitch.
Credits: little india
The Israeli Antiquities Authority said Tuesday that a diver swimming in the Mediterranean Sea has recovered a large sword that experts believe to be about 900 years old, dating back to the Crusades.
The antiquities authority's Director of Marine Archaeology, Kobi Sharvit, said the amateur diver was swimming about 150 meters offshore near the Israeli port of Haifa a few days ago when he spotted the sword lying on the ocean floor, four to five meters below the surface.
Sharvit said the diver recovered the sword and immediately took it to the antiquities authority. Sharvit said the sword -- encrusted with marine organisms when discovered –is the most complete and well preserved he has seen in 31 years. He described the sword as large, heavy and made of iron.
He added that the one-meter-long blade, hilt and handle were distinctive and highly noticeable after undercurrents apparently shifted sands that had concealed it.
Sharvit said because the sword was found in a cove, not far from the Crusader castle of Atlit on the northern coast of Israel, it is being assumed the sword belonged to a solder in the Crusades.
The Crusades were a series of medieval European Christian-led military expeditions to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries.
Sharvit said that from an historical perspective, the handle of the sword may be the most important part of the weapon as that is where decorations, and perhaps, even names or initials are often found that will help identify the sword.
He said once it cleaned, examined, and restored, the antiquities authority will put the sword on display. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Crusader sword, Israel, Antiquity, Castle of Atlit
Facebook must pay a $4.75 million fine and up to $9.5 million in back pay to eligible victims who say the company discriminated against U.S. workers in favor of foreign ones, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
The discrimination took place from at least January 1, 2018, until at least September 18, 2019.
The Justice Department said Facebook "routinely refused" to recruit or consider U.S. workers, including U.S. citizens and nationals, asylees, refugees and lawful permanent residents, in favor of temporary visa holders. Facebook also helped the visa holders get their green cards, which allowed them to work permanently
In a separate settlement, the company also agreed to train its employees in anti-discrimination rules and conduct wider searches to fill jobs.
The fines and back pay are the largest civil awards ever given by the DOJ's civil rights division in its 35-year history.
"Facebook is not above the law and must comply with our nation's civil rights laws," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke told reporters in a telephone conference.
"While we strongly believe we met the federal government's standards in our permanent labor certification [PERM] practices, we've reached agreements to end the ongoing litigation and move forward with our PERM program, which is an important part of our overall immigration program," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "These resolutions will enable us to continue our focus on hiring the best builders from both the U.S. and around the world and supporting our internal community of highly skilled visa holders who are seeking permanent residence." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Facebook, Employment, Justice Dept., Recruitment
Tomatoes are a staple in the Indian diet, be it a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian dish. It has to be a part of each meal in some form. As puree, paste, flavour, or diced into the dal. This tangy, sweet, and juicy ingredient was not always Indian. In fact, it did not even grow in India until the British sanctioned it. It is a product of colonization and has come a long way to become part of our everyday meals.
Originally, the tomato was considered poison. Its actual native is debatable. Some say it is European while others argue that is came from indigenous parts of Spain and Portugal. Either way, it is a plant species that is associated with the legendary Nightshade. It looks very similar to this poisonous plant that tomatoes were not even harvested for a long time, for fear of picking Nightshade instead. It was believed that Nightshade caused the blood to turn to acid and that tomatoes had the same property. Later research proved that the plant itself may be poisonous but the fruit is not.
The fruit if the woody nightshade plant Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Tomato is considered a fruit instead of a vegetable because it is cooked. But this theory has an interesting tale behind it. in the United States, in 1887, a tax was levied on the transport of vegetables, but not on fruits. By then, tomatoes had become a huge part of the American diet and traders could not afford to pay the ten percent duty. So, they began to call the large loads they transported fruits, just to avoid the tax due. In time, this is how the tomato came to be regarded. Some scientists went even further and stated that it is a berry. Botanists claim that since it is a part that grows from the flower's ovary and contains seeds, it is a fruit and not a vegetable. But this is a debate that will never end.
Incorporating tomatoes into the Indian diet must have happened so long ago that people do not remember a time without tomatoes, considering how it is the fundamental ingredient of most cuisines. The tomato has a name in every language as well, so the trading between nations, the voyages that brought them to India, and the decoding of the fruit-vegetable must have taken place far earlier than our ancestors remember. Or, perhaps we liked it so much that we decided to use it everywhere and make it our own. Nonetheless, it has been a delightful addition.
Keywords: Tomato, Fruit, Vegetable, Nightshade, Voyage, Staple