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Manikarnika Ghat is one of the oldest and most sacred Ghats in Benaras which serves as the main cremation Ghat in the city. The riverfront enjoys a prominent position both in legendary mythology and amongst the general belief amongst the locals who believe that one whose last rites are performed here inherits instant gateway to liberation from the cycle of rebirths.
Although cremation ghats are usually found outside the township, Manikarnika is an exception to this rule being situated right in the middle of the town. One explanation for this may lie in the fact that the whole city of Varanasi is regarded as ‘Maha-shamshana’ of the world. The five Tirth stala lies to its five corners, symbolizing both creation and destruction. There is also a sacred well known as ‘Manikarnika Kund’ which is said to be dug by Lord Vishnu at the behest of Lord Shiva at the time of earth’s creation. It is said that the kund was created by the discus of Lord Vishnu who filled it with perspiration from his exertions, and when Lord Shiva, the destroyer quivered with delight, his earring fell into Manikarnika pool earning it the title of a Jeweled Earring.
Manikarnika Devi today is worshipped by millions of devotees every year. Not too far from the ghat one finds a small shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu marked by paduka (footprints) believed to be of the lord himself. Thus, the kund and the ghat are together known as Manikarnika, whereas the cremation ground is actually called Jalasi Ghat. Dark, smoke-stained temple located nearby identifies the same.