Maha Shivratri is one of the most popular festivals celebrated for Lord Shiva. It is said that Lord Shiva is the easiest to please among all the Gods. While many legends are narrated on the day of Shivratri in praise of Lord Shiva, one among these legends is that of Lubdhaka. One of the oldest and popular ones, the story of Lord Shiva and Lubdhaka puts forth, the significance of worshipping Lord Shiva on the night of Shivratri.
Lubdhaka was a woodcutter. He used to go every day to the forest, cut trees, collect the wood and sell it in the market. The barter system prevailed during those times. While this wood was used as fuel as well as for further manufacturing purpose, the woodcutter would get some grains, clothes and other basic items of use in return.
Through hunting for the woods, he used to visit new forests, deep fresh untouched woods and enjoyed travelling to the undiscovered horizons. Hence, he also sometimes used to visit new forests. Once while he was in one such new forest. He loved the place and after having cut the wood for the day, he thought of discovering the forest a little more. Hence, he went farther.
He thought he should leave for the day when there was yet some time for the sun to set. As he walked back the same path, he realised that it was taking him longer. Just then he figured out that the path he had taken was not the same and that he had lost the way.
Amidst the darkness of the dense forest, Lubdhaka found himself all alone, lost and confused. As the darkness of the night fell over, he started hearing the sounds of wild animals. Terrified, he thought of climbing a tree nearby and spending the entire night on it. He quickly climbed the first tree he saw at the nearest.
He realised that it was a Bilwa tree after checking its leaves. And what next? Tired by wandering the entire day, his body needed some rest and he would fall asleep sitting on the tree, and would fall down and animals would know. ''I would play with the leaves of the tree. Plucking the leaves, dropping them on the ground and counting them this way, would keep my mind busy and I wouldn't fall asleep'', thought Lubdhaka.
Just while he was busy counting the leaves, he heard the roar of a lion nearby. Probably the beast got to know the presence of a human being nearby. The roar went on becoming louder which meant that the animal was coming nearer. And the next moment, he could see the lion looking at him with red glitter in the eyes. The lion would definitely eat him up. Just the next moment, when he thought the lion would jump at him, he saw it go away after staring at him for a few moments. This left Lubdhaka confused as to what made the lion have mercy on him.
However, plucking the leaves, he spent the remaining time of the night. His heart felt relieved with the first spark of light of the sun's rays from the east. He jumped down the tree and what a surprise, there was a Shivlinga under the tree. And he noticed that he had been dropping Bilwa leaves on the Shivlinga, which is believed to be very auspicious. It was a Shivratri that day.
It took him no longer to make out what had caused the lion to leave. It was the blessings of Lord Shiva that he got by offering Bilwa leaves on the Shivlinga throughout the night. Not just this, he could even sell the woods at a better price that day. All because of the blessings of Lord Shiva.