Bringing the Faith of India to a New American Home

Photo by Stephanie Barto
Photo by Stephanie Barto

After the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 encouraged professionals from all over the world to pursue U.S. citizenship, waves of Indian students and workers settled in Chicago. Those first immigrants were followed by their families, many of whom established businesses, community centers, and homes around Devon Street. From 1980 to 2000 the Indian population in Chicago nearly quadrupled, with many of these newcomers coming to West Ridge.

While a section of Devon Avenue bustles with Indian and Pakistani restaurants, grocery stores, and clothing shops, the community did not have a nearby temple for Hindus. Local business owner Nirmal Shewakramani recognized the oversight, and founded the Shree Ganesh Temple at 2545 West Devon in 2016.

As an immigrant, Devon Avenue businessman, and faithful Hindu Shewakramani wanted to bring the community together in worship and tradition. In 2014, he shut down the family jewelry business for two weeks to host the Ganesh Chaturthi, an annual holiday celebrating Hindu deity Ganesh’s birth. The event, named Devon Ka Raja (King of Devon) by its organizers, was warmly welcomed by residents of Devon Avenue and beyond. Worshippers crowned a large statue of Lord Ganesh, welcoming the India-imported idol as a new cornerstone of local religious practice.

Shree Ganesh Photo

Two years later, the Shewakramani family found a storefront building to open the temple Nirmal envisioned. Now, Shree Ganesh Temple of Chicago serves as a place for Hindus to gather and practice their faith year-round.

The temple has plans for future expansion, including an ornate façade and tall tower atop the original storefront. Even without those additions, Shree Ganesh continues to house the annual Devon Ka Raja Ganesh Chaturthi Festival, other holiday events, Hindi lessons, and regular worship services.