Ashoka Ashtami 2022: History, rituals and more
Ashoka Ashtami is an auspicious festival among the Hindu community that is widely celebrated in Odisha and other Eastern and Southern regions of India. The festival marks the victory of good over evil and this year, it will be celebrated on April 9. Dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti, the festival is celebrated in a grand manner in Bhubaneswar's Lingaraj Temple.
According to legends, Goddess Shakti protected Ravana which prevented Lord Ram from destroying him. Therefore, Ram started praying to Goddess Shakti and Lord Shiva for seven days at the Lingaraj Temple. On the eighth day (Ashtami), he was blessed by the deities that helped him to annihilate Ravana. Ram took out a procession on that day to celebrate the triumph which marked Ashoka Ashtami.
Since the festival is also associated with Lord Lingaraj, a rath yatra is organized where Lord Lingaraj along with Parvati, Kumara, the image of Govinda, and Nandikeshvara are taken out on a chariot from Odisha's Lingaraj Temple to the Rameshwara Temple. Also called the car festival, this rath yatra lasts for five-seven days and is witnessed by hundreds of devotees across the world.
Religious fairs are also organized on Ashoka Ashtami to celebrate the festival with fervor. The Ashoka Ashtami Fair is held at the Unakoti Tirtha of Kailashahar Sub-Division in Tripura and is attended by hundreds of pilgrims from all over Odisha and neighboring states. The images of gods and goddesses engraved on hilly rocks are worshiped by organizing special pujas in the fair.
On this auspicious day, the Ashoka tree is also worshiped since it was quite close to Lord Shiva. The Ashoka tree is considered a symbol of peace and happiness. According to legends, the tree originated from Lord Shiva and one can seek his blessings by worshipping the holy tree. Offer milk to the tree roots on Ashoka Ashtami to have your wishes fulfilled.