Mahashivratri – is an auspicious Hindu festival celebrated annually. It falls on the 14th day of the dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Phalguna (February-March).
According to Hindu mythology, Mahashivratri marks the day when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava, a cosmic dance that symbolizes the cycle of creation, preservation, and destruction. It is also believed that on this day, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were united in the divine marriage ceremony.
The story behind the lighting of Mahadeep on top of the Lingaraj Temple on Maha Shivaratri is as follows:
Once upon a time, a poor tribal man named Bilvamangala was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He wanted to offer something to Lord Shiva, but he had nothing to offer except a small bilva leaf. He went to the Lingaraj Temple to offer the leaf to the Lord.
On his way, he was stopped by a group of dacoits who tried to rob him. Bilvamangala prayed to Lord Shiva for help, and the Lord appeared in front of him and defeated the dacoits. Bilvamangala was overwhelmed by this miraculous incident and wanted to offer something more to Lord Shiva.
He decided to offer a Mahadeep (a big lamp) to the Lingaraj Temple. However, he was poor and could not afford to buy a Mahadeep.
On the day of Maha Shivaratri, Bilvamangala collected oil from all the households in the city and lit the Mahadeep on top of the Lingaraj Temple. It is said that the Mahadeep burned for days, and the light could be seen from a distance of several kilometers.
Since then, it has become a tradition to light the Mahadeep on top of the Lingaraj Temple on Maha Shivaratri. It is believed that lighting the Mahadeep brings prosperity and happiness to the people.
The Lingaraj Temple attracts a large number of devotees on Maha Shivaratri, who come to witness this spectacular event and offer their prayers to Lord Shiva.