By Ed Brock

eaving prayers in with the mortar, the priests of the Hindu Temple of Atlanta are consecrating a new building for the god Shiva. It is a process that will take three days, and on Saturday some 5,000 people, Hindu and non-Hindu, are expected to come witness the nearly complete temple.

"He is the lord that gives us salvation," said Dr. Krishna Mohan, a trustee of the temple who has been a member since it was built in the late 1980s.

Rising on a hill above Ga. Highway 85 near Riverdale and serving the 60,000 Hindus in the Atlanta area, the original temple is dedicated to the god Vishnu, the Lord of Protection and maintenance. But Mohan said Vishnu and Shiva, along with Brahma are aspects of the one God.

"We all know he is universal and has no shape or form," Mohan said. "We use these forms to be able to focus on God."

Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva represent parts of the cycle of life. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the maintainer and Shiva is the destroyer.

"But that's really a misnomer," Mohan said.

Shiva is really the god of change, tearing down the old to allow for the creation of the news.

"He's going to take you to the next level," Mohan said.

In India many people are brought up worshipping one of the particular forms, said the temple's president Dr. G.V. Raghu.

"As more and more devotees who grew up worshipping Shiva (came to the temple) they expressed an interest in having (the new temple)," Raghu said.

That was about two years ago, and though the temple will be officially consecrated and open after Saturday it might be another two years before it is really finished.

Built in the architectural style of 12th century south Indian temples, the original temple of Vishnu is topped by elaborately carved spires. For their construction the temple had to bring in artisans from India, a process Raghu said might be complicated this time by additional security procedures initiated after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Eventually the temple may build a small temple that would be dedicated to Brahma, Raghu said, but there are no concrete plans for that yet. They do have plans for expanding the priests' quarters and constructing buildings where other ceremonies can be held.

The dedication of the temple also coincides with the annual Brahmotsavam celebration, Mohan said. On Thursday the temple was alive with activity as celebrants watched the seven priests perform one of the celebration's rituals.

Jim Baggett with Four Star Builders was too busy building the new temple to watch the ceremony, but having worked for the temple before on their education building he said it was always a unique experience.

Also in the crowd was a man Vaithi of Alpharetta who brought his 11-year-old daughter Priya to watch the ceremony.

"For the kids we're teaching them the culture," Vaithi said. "We want to educate them about the culture, get them involved."

Otherwise, Vaithi said, the culture and the art of India may be lost.