Jagara or Shiva Ratri or the night of Shiva is a festival held in honour of the God. In Shiva Purana, Shiva says to Her consort Parvati that no festival other than Shiva Ratri observed by his devotees gives Him so much pleasure and satisfaction. The festival "Shiva’s Great Night" falls on the 14th day of the dark half of Phalgun and is observed by devotees all over the country. The earliest temlpes of Lord Shiva dates back to 6th-7th century A.D. Since then Shaivism is a great religious force among the people of Orissa. The festival is held with great religious fervor in the State. Devotees keep fast and perform puja throughout the night and keep a vigil to witness the sacred lamp on the temple top.
The festival can be best enjoyed at Lingaraj Temple- Bhubaneswar, Mahendragiri, Gupteswar, Kapilas, Puri, and Khiching.
Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva are sung with great fervor and devotion. People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya. It is believed that one who utters the name of Shiva during Shivratri with proper devotion is freed from all sins. He reaches the abode of Shiva and lives happily there. He is liberated from the cycle of birth and death. Many pilgrims flock to the places where there are Shiva temples.
Shiva being an ascetic god, Maha Shivratri is very popular with ascetics. Thandai, a drink made with cannabis, almonds, and milk, is essentially drunk by the devout. This is so because cannabis is said to have been very dear to Shiva. The Puranas contain many stories and legends describing the origin of this festival.
According to one, during the Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. This terrified the gods and demons as the poison was capable of destroying the entire world, and they ran to Shiva for help. To protect the world from its evil effects, Shiva drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. Because of it, his throat turned blue, and he was given the name Nilkantha, the blue-throated one.