Bhubaneswar which is also known as City of Temple has been the core center of Shaivism from the very ancient period. And the Lingaraja temple is viewed as the school of Kalingan Architecture, who date back the worship of Lingaraja to at least 1500 years ago. Hence we can say, Lingaraja’s Ratha Jatra is very ancient.
The Legend or the origin of the festival is associated with the Ramayana. When the war broke between Lord Rama and Ravana, Lord Rama came to know that Goddess Kali was on Ravana side and was acting like protective armour to him. Lord Rama prayed Goddess Kali and demolished Ravana. He then brought back his spouse Sita. As part of Celebration, he then took out Lord Shiva and Goddess Kali to a procession in a Chariot (Rath) called Rukmini or Rukuna Rath
The chariot is 35 feet high and about 20 feet wide. It has four wheels of 6 feet in diameter. The chariot is decorated with four horses, a divine throne, a golden kalash, a sixteen karamandalas, four gates, twenty-one chhayas, and a flag adorned with a trishula (Trident). The Chariot is draped in yellow, red, white, and blue cloth and the chariot is formally established on the eve of Ashokastami.
In the middle of the chariot are Rukmini, Chandrashekhar on the right, and Basudev on the left. Then the chariot race begins. After the chariot is finished, the chariot goes and stays at the Rameshwar temple near Mausima ‘Chowk. Lord Lingaraj stays there for five days and returns to his temple. The Ashokasthami festival is also celebrated for the purpose of Neelkantheshwar Deva of Chakradharpur under Kapileshwar, the head of Dia village near Nirakarpur and the sixteenth administration of Puri district, near Nirakarpur. This Festival attracts tourists all over the World & being the oldest Car Festival, its history goes back to 11th Century that attracts historians to witness this unique culture once in a year.