The Groton Interfaith Council’s annual Martin Luther King Day breakfast is always a friendly, welcoming affair, but Monday’s pot luck vegetarian feast felt a bit like a new family celebration. Neelkanth Mishra, spiritual director of the New England Shirdi Sai Parivaar Temple, was the featured speaker, and he welcomed Groton and about 50 interfaith feasters to his family — “parivaar” means “family” or “extended family” in Hindi — as the Interfaith Council welcomed Groton’s newest congregation, a Hindu temple, to the town.
The New England Shirdi Sai Parivaar Temple, with more than 400 members, now meets in a rented building in Chelmsford. The sect purchased 28 acres on Route 119 near the Littleton town line several years ago, has secured all town permits to build a permanent temple, and plans be meeting in a building that is the first phase of an ongoing construction plan in 2016.
The congregation venerates Shri Sai Baba, a holy man who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century in Shirdi, a rural community near Mumbai, on the eastern side of the Indian peninsula. The sect, as many Hindu sects are, has a strong regional base there, but Shirdi Sai has expanded around the world. In North America, there are strong communities around Boston, Chicago, and on the west coast, and smaller communities in Texas, Canada, and in other areas.
Following Shri Sai Baba’s teachings, the temple will be more than a place of worship, Mishra said — it will be a community center and a place of service to the surrounding community.
See the Wikipedia entry on Shirdi Sai Baba
Currently, the temple holds four Aartis, or services, a day. It is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. each day but Thursday. Thursday is a special holy day, and the temple remains open until 10 p.m. In addition to the four Aartis, the temple is always available for individual or small group meditation or prayer, Mishra said, and he invited anyone interested in the temple to visit a service.
The temple is heavily invested in helping people, he told the Interfaith Council member, with food and clothing drives, blood drives, and volunteer service. The Groton temple will be more than a place for worship — it will also be a center for community services and outreach, he said.
The temple’s website is at http://www.nessp.org/ .