By Anne O’Connor
GROTON — The grandeur of the temple reveals itself slowly to drivers on the access road from Route 119.
First the tops of three conical domes in different stages of being finished appear. Then, the massive building underneath them comes into view.
When finished, this will be the largest temple of its type in North America.
The two-story New England Shirdi Sai Parivaar Temple, with 40,000 square feet, will be a gathering point for Hindus from all across New England. When the temple first formed in 2006, there were 40 families, said Mahender Singh, president of the temple. Now, there are 5,000.
The spacious, open section of the second floor under the main dome will remain uncluttered by furniture. It will be carpeted for prayers with, perhaps, a few seats around the edge.
The temple, designed by architect B. D. Nayak, follows the design principles of vaastu, aligning the building with the planet, Singh said.
Three deities will have a place under the domes. Shirdi Sai Baba will face west, toward the main entrance. Shiva and Vishnu, with their families, will be on the other sides.
Priests will dress, decorate and clean the deities.
“Once they come into the temple, they come into life and that means they have to be treated like humans,” Singh said.
Singh is looking forward to the opening. Activities are limited by the small space, 7,000 square feet, the temple rents in Chelmsford.
The main service is held Thursday evening from 7 to 10, Singh said.
The building will be open to the public. The main rules are no selling meat and no alcohol, Singh said.
In addition to prayers, free classes in yoga and meditation are planned. Medical and dental checkups for those without insurance will be offered.
The temple has already become part of the community. They have met with local seniors about making class space available, Singh said.
Members donate to food pantries and participate in fundraising walks and blood donations. The temple is a member of the Groton Interfaith Council.
When they met with abutters before breaking ground, everyone was very supportive, Singh said. Most buffer zones are 100 feet and will be wooded.
The 28-acre site is mostly in Groton. Three undeveloped acres are in Littleton, he said.
An auditorium and residential units for priests will be completed in a second phase.
The temple has already raised almost $9 million and needs another $500,000.
Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.