Ashokashtami is the car-festival of Lord Shiva celebrated
with great enthusiasm at
and is considered to be the most important festival of Lord Lingaraj. On
the eighth day of the month of Chaitra the representative deity of
Lingaraj Sri Chandrasekhara is drawn on a car from near the temple to the
temple of Rameswara. Thousands of people congregate on this occasion to
watch the festival.
There is a puranical account about the origin of the festival. It is said that Lord Ramachandra, inspite of all efforts couldn't kill Ravana as Goddess Kali was protecting him. Then he was advised by 'Bibhisana', the younger brother of Ravana to propitiate the Mother Goddess and win Her support. Then Ramachandra prayed the Goddess for long seven days with elaborate rituals and could please Her to withdraw support from Ravana.
When Her favour was withdrawn it became easy for Ramachandra to kill Ravana through 'Brahmastra', the unfailing weapon. To celebrate this victory he took out Shiva and Durga, in a chariot, out of pleasure and satisfaction. From that day the festival is being observed.
As the 'shoka' or sorrow of Ramachandra was removed by the death of Ravana, this day is called "Ashoka" (devoid of shoka) 'Astami' or 'Ashokastami'. Some religious texts are of the opinion that Parvati could get Shiva as Her husband on this day and she became 'Ashoka' (removed off sorrowfulness) and therefore, the festival has been named as Ashokastami.