Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 11 October 2009.Phone: 630-972-0300
MEMBERSHIP/COMMUNITY SIZEThough there are over 14,000 names on the temple’s mailing list, the temple sees about a thousand devotees every week. Those devotees who see this temple as their main place of worship are usually from all over the Chicago area. There are others who come from other Midwestern states for major festivals and holy days. Lastly, there are also occasional visitors from other parts of the country.
DEMOGRAPHICS/ETHNIC COMPOSITIONThe visitors are mainly Indian-American Hindus; however, within the Indian community, there are ethno-linguistic communities. Of these, there is a large contingent (approximately 30-40%) of Telugu people from Andhra Pradesh attending the temple. They are also the founders and major donors of the temple. Other communities are evenly divided: 10-15% being other South Indians, another 10-15% being Gujarati, and the remaining 30% being North Indians.
AFFILIATION WITH OTHER COMMUNITIES/ORGANIZATIONSThe Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago does not have any formal ties to any organizations. Nonetheless, the temple often co-sponsors cultural, educational, and religious events held by local ethno-linguistic groups (such as the Telugu Association of Greater Chicago) and the spiritual centers such as the Vedanta Society. Local groups and community associations will also rent out space in the Community Center (newly constructed in 2001) or sponsor pujas for particular gods at the temple.
HISTORYIn 1977 the president of the Telugu Association of Greater Chicago met with a few people to discuss the idea of building a center to serve the needs of all Hindus. Their vision integrated all Hindus from the various regions of India; they recognized the differences in the practice of Hinduism and therefore, chose to highlight the flexibility and unity of this religion. They also hoped for this center to serve as a place of cultural, artistic, and educational activities. After four years of fundraising, increasing membership, and gathering support for such a center, in 1981 a group of architects from India and America were chosen to draw up the blueprints. A building committee labored to design a building that would satisfy the various regional styles. By early 1982, a site was chosen and the plans were exhibited at the Second Convention of Asian Indians in America in May 1982. When a statue of Lord Ganesh from Andhra Pradesh, India arrived in January 1983, worship services were temporarily moved to Downers Grove. Even this temporary location drew crowds of several hundreds so temple planners knew they were filling a much-needed gap for Hindus living in the Midwest. Finally, at a groundbreaking ceremony in June 1984, the Chief Minister (a.k.a. Governor) of the state of Andhra Pradesh laid the foundation stone for the Ganesh temple. Starting in 1985, the temple observed many religious festivals and even classical dance programs. Lata Mangeshkar (a world-famous singer from India) even helped inaugurate the temple in June of 1985. That year a Hindu Heritage youth camp was co-sponsored with the Chinmaya Mission of Chicago. Additional land was also purchased to increase the total acreage of the temple to twenty acres and the Ramalaya (Rama temple) was under construction. The next year saw the modest beginnings of the Sunday School. 1986 also saw the installation of the Sivalinga (a special stone statue symbolizing Lord Siva) in the Ganesh temple as well as the opening ceremony of the Rama Temple. In 1987, the temple started its Sanjeevani Donor Tree program to commemorate its major supporters. Plans to expand the Ganesh Siva temple were made in 1988. Slowly progress was being made and things were running smoothly. In 1989-1990 the temple acquired two more acres and invited dignitaries like the Indian Ambassador Abid Hussain. This helped to increase the number of devotees and the demand for a community center. In 1991, the youth group, In The Wings, was formed and the following year saw expansion into the current GSD temple and larger parking lot. Four years later the tall entrance gate project was started, Akshaya (a group for young professionals) was formed, temple archives were formalized, Ekantha Seva (a monthly music program), and Lord Hanuman’s Puja were started. 1997 marked the twenty year anniversary; the President started to focus on future projects to ensure the temple’s existence and strong presence in the Indian community in Chicago.
ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURESThere are patron members (those who have donated $10,000 over three years) and regular members (those who either made a one-time donation of $1000 and those who make an annual donation of $100) at the temple. Of the 120 or 130 patron members, 10 are elected and 6 of the regular members are chosen for the Board of Trustees. The position is a four year term; therefore, one fourth of the Board of Trustees is up for election every year. Elections are held every first Sunday of December. The Board of Trustees chooses the Executive Committee (president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer) to handle the temple’s administrative affairs.
ACTIVITIES AND SCHEDULEThe religious services at the temple are regular weekly events. The temple is open every day; however, Sunday is the holiest day so many services take place on this day. For example, Lord Rama’s puja is done every Sunday at 10:30 am and at 6pm Lord Krishna’s puja is observed. Similarly, other gods’ prayer services are performed on the second, third and fourth Sundays of the month. Other regular prayer services to various gods are performed on other days of the week. The temple also has regular educational/cultural activities throughout the month. Yoga classes are held on the first and third Sundays of the month following Sunday School (a set of religious and language courses meant to teach young children about Hindu mythology, festivals, and Indian languages such as Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, etc.) The Eknatha Seva Monthly Music Program invites a classical Indian musician for a concert every second Sunday of the month. Courses on the Bhagavad Gita as well as Akshaya (a group for young professionals and recently married second-generation Indian Americans), In The Wings (a youth group for adolescents aged 12 to 18), and administrative meetings are also held regularly every month. For a full/detailed listing of the regular schedule of activities at the temple, please consult the website at www.ramatemple.org/RegEvents.htm.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTIONThe entrance into the parking lot of the Hindu Temple is adorned with a tall, thin, white concrete gate. The temple is not visible when facing the parking lot; however, a large stone gazebo with an enormous statue of Swami Vivekananda at the far end of the parking lot.
UNIQUE FEATURESIt is common for Hindu temples to have a main deity and for that god to be Siva or Vishnu. This temple is unique in that it houses both deities at one place at the GSD temple.