Chilkur Balaji Temple
Filed under Attractions
About 25 to 30 kilometers from Hyderabad is Chilkur, a sleepy, unassuming village that is pretty much like any other rural village in the region. However, it has become one of the more important pilgrimage sites in the state of Andhra Pradesh. This is because Chilkur is the site of one of the more popular temples in Hyderabad, the Chilkur Balaji temple. It is also known as the Visa Balaji temple because it is particularly popular with devotees who want to get visas for going overseas. It is not uncommon to see a lot of young people paying their respects to the temple.
The temple itself is located in the banks of the Osman Sagar Lake, just off Vikarabad road. From the style and architecture of the temple, it can be postulated that the temple was built at least half a millennium ago. It is the oldest temple in Telengana, built during the days of Akkana and Madanna, the uncles of Bhakta Ramdas. Within the temple is the Swayambhu idol of the temple’s lord, Sri Balaji Venkateshwara, with Sridevi and Bhoodevi accompanying him. Lord Venkateshwara is said to shower his blessings to any devotee or pilgrim who is not capable of visiting his temple at Tirupati, at Tirumala. According to legend, a devotee who used to go to the lord’s temple at Tirupati was unable to go because of serious health problems. Moved by the devotion, Lord Venkateshwara appeared to him in a dream and told him to dig his idol in the nearby jungle. The devotee did so, and he found the idol of the lord, together with Sridevi and Bhoodevi, a rare combination. Incidentally, the devotee’s axe accidentally struck the idol’s chin and chest during the process. It is said that one can still see these marks on the idol to this day.
An important feature of the Chilkur Balaji temple is that there is no required offering or hundi. Instead, tradition states that the only fee the lord requires is for the devotee to make rounds of the temple, called pradakshinas. The usual procedure is to take 11 pradakshinas and then express the wish. During this time, the devotee shall promise to take 108 more pradakshinas if the wish is granted. This is usually what devotees do in order to get a visa.
Whether or not a wish is really granted when pilgrimage to the temple and pradakshinas are done is still open for debate. What is not, however, is the fact that Chilkur Balaji temple is one of Hyderabad’s enduring religious legacies.