Though Srimandir belongs to Puri, the Rath Yatra is not confined to the pilgrim town only.
Thanks to the scores of invaders, mainly Moghuls who looted the temple (Srimandir) and tried to dethrone Lord Jagannath, the idols were shifted many times to secret and safe places. One of these places is Kankana Sikhari, amid Asia’s largest brackish waterbody Chilika lake.
While the chariots of Lord Jagannath and his siblings are pulled on road all over the world, at Kankana Sikhari in Chilika near Nairi village under Khurda district the annual nine-day sojourn of the Holy Trinity is observed on boats in Chilika.
As the legend goes, the idols were transferred to safer places time to time during Moghul and Afghan attacks. Chilika lagoon hosted the lord for a majority of time at three places- Kankana Sikhari, Gurubai and Chakanasi.
When the deities were worshipped at Kankada Sikhari (Nairi village) , the servitors used to bring fresh water from nearby Jamuna Nirjhara to worship the deities. At that time, local people used to harvest spiny gourd (kankada) on this island to offer to the lords. It is assumed that the name Kankana Sikhari might have been adopted due to this reason.
In the initial days, the Rath Yatra was observed using bullock-carts at Nairi, but later boats were called in and the Holy Trinity were put on a boat during the festival. And thousands of devotees throng the island in Chilika to witness the unique Rath Yatra.