The chanting of a Hindu prayer could be heard faintly on the streets of Petersburg Corners in Scranton. Inside a former Presbyterian church on Prescott Avenue, they lit candles made of hardened butter, sweet-smelling incense and sat with their legs crossed before Shiva and other deities of the Hindu pantheon, chanting in unison a prayer in Gujarati, a language of India.
Years ago, the cross of Christ was the symbol of faith here. A nearly 70-year-old organ played the hymns of the Christian faith.
That is all gone now, serving as another reminder of the shifting demographics of the city as it continues on a new path than the road taken by the Italians, Irish, Polish and other European immigrants. During the immigration waves of the 19th and early 20th centuries, they built the churches and laid the foundations of the city.
Petersburg Corners and the surrounding area reveal a new direction, a community undergoing change, where another wave of immigrants is now building a place they, too, can call home.
Today, the growing Indian community in this neighborhood, the surrounding Hill Section neighborhood and nearby parts of the city flock to the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu temple at 933 Prescott Ave. Harikrisna Patel, 57, is a spiritual leader at the temple, where roughly 300 adherents of Hinduism gather for prayer and meals.