The History of Rathayatra.
Rathayatra was brought to the western world by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1967. In fact the Ratha Yatra festival has a long history going way back.
“The Skanda Purana states that Ratha-yātrā began a few billion years ago in Satya-yuga during the reign of Svarocisa Manu, the second of the fourteen Manus.
Every year Lord Jagannatha enacts the Ratha-yātrā (Mahavedi Yatra) in order to see His appearance place at the Yajna Vedi in the Gundica Mandira. (Skanda P. 29.25-44)
In Orissa (India), the Ratha-yātrā festival is known as Jagannātha’s journey to Guṇḍicā. Although outsiders call it Ratha-yātrā, the residents of Orissa call it the Guṇḍicā-yātrā in honor of Gundica Devi, King Indradyumna’s queen, who purportedly initiated this festival.
The songs of many Oriyan poets state that Ratha-yātrā started with the request of King Indradyumna’s wife named Gundica.
Ratha-yātrā is also known as the Patita Pavana Mahotsava because non-Hindus get the opportunity to see Lord Jagannatha. This auspicious darsana cleanses all sins and grants liberation.”
(‘Jagannatha Puri Guide Book‘ by Mahanidhi Swami)