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Manikarnika Ghat – The Burning Ghat of Varanasi

Manikarnika Ghat at night | Picture by Jaegen T
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I am Vishwanatha, the Lord.
Kashi is the Light of Liberation.
The waves of the River of Heaven are the wine of immortality.
What can these three not provide?

The above lines are from Kashi Khanda, one of the parts of the ancient Skanda Purana which praises the Sangam of the three elements particularly, Ganga, Varanasi, and therefore the Vishwanatha Temple. This ancient text established the part of the essential belief that gives uniqueness to all the three elements to such an amount that they stand large and religious among the beliefs of Hindus in India.

The city of Varanasi is understood to the world over as the “sacred city” of India and it is recognized as the “most ancient continuously inhabited city of the world”.

 

Manikarnika Ghat Varanasi
Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi | Captured by Vivek Mishra

 

Like any other component present in the city of light, the ghats too are very religious and considered a platform for liberation and the end of human misery. There are around 84 ghats. If the blessings of life start at Dashashwamedh Ghat than it ends at Manikarnika Ghat; a unique combination of life and death in the desire of salvation attracts the pilgrims. Paradoxically, it is the only city on earth that is famous for the death and salvation.

“Even after a thousand cycles of life and death, one is not sure if he gets salvation or not.” It is attainable in a single birth in Kashi (Varanasi). This is a great saying for Kashi.

History behind the Manikarnika Ghat

 

Mani of Shiva

The name ‘Manikarnika’, as the scriptures suggest, came when the ‘Mani’ of Shiva and ‘Karnika’ of Parvati, while bathing in that Kund, slipped off and fell in it. The decision of Shiva to retain the task of granting salvation is seen in the broader perspective here in Manikarnika.

It is said that here in this ghat, Lord Shiva, himself directs the soul of the dead to crossover the world towards the path of salvation by speaking the ‘Taraka Mantra’ in the ears of the dead. This belief is the lifeline of the ghat, which makes it a special place for cremation.

Story of Sati

Another narrative claims that Mata Sati sacrificed herself by positioning her body on fire after one of the sons of Lord Brahma, Raja Daksh Prajapati, tried to dishonor Lord Shiva in a Yagnya (a ritual within which offerings are made into a dedicated fire).

Later, Lord Shiva carried Mata Sati’s body toward the Himalaya. During this journey, her body started to fall onto the earth. Shakti Peeth (a place of worship to the divinity Sati/Shakti) was then established in each place her body parts had fallen.

Shiva carrying body of sati on his trident
Shiva carrying the body of Sati on his trident | Author: Unknown.

In this story, Mata Sati’s earring fell down at Manikarnika Ghat and the name has derived from it.

The Manikarnika Ghat, popularly known as the “Maha Smashaan” or ”great cremation ground” is one of the main ghats present on the long stretch of the holy river of Ganga flowing past the city of Varanasi.

The ghat is the site of the most important of the two cremation grounds of Varanasi, and of the sacred tank beside which Lord Vishnu performed his cosmogonic austerities. The ghat is located at a point roughly midway along the Ganga between the confluence of the Assi and Ganga, which marks the southern boundary of the sacred city and the confluence of the Varuna and Ganga which marks its northern boundary.

Manikarnika Ghat view from boat
Manikarnika Ghat as viewed from the boat | Captured by Ansh Saraogi

 

“While in India, the cremation ground is generally on the periphery or outside the area of human settlement, in Kashi, it is at the very hub. Just as India is said to be the navel of the world and Kashi is the navel of India, so Manikarnika is the navel of Kashi.”

On entering the ghat from the southern end one finds huge stacks of woods(of different trees and quality) used in cremation. Moving further one comes across the platform of cremation with Dom workers and Purohits working in the area.

Crossing the area one can reach Manikarnika Kund (water tank), the original identity of this ghat. This Kund is believed to be made by Lord Vishnu himself in the age when life on the planet was in its preparatory stage. Today, Manikarnika Ghat is serving as several as 200 cremations per day.

Manikarnika - The burning ghat of Varanasi
Manikarnika Ghat at night | Captured by Jaegen T

How to Reach

Manikarnika Ghat is located in Lahori Tola. It is well connected to all the Railway stations, Airport and the bus stand via road. The best way to reach Manikarnika ghat is on foot via Ghats as it’s very near to Dashashwamedh Ghat. One can also take a boat ride from any ghat to the Manikarnika Ghat.

What to See 

  • Cremation Ground
  • Manikarnika Kund
  • Kachori Gali

Nearby Temples

  • Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple
  • Tarakeshwar temple
  • Baba Mashan Nath Temple
  • Vishnu Paduka Temple
  • Kashi Karvat Temple

Nearby Ghats

Jalasen Ghat, Scindia Ghat

1 Comment
  1. Viral Mehta says

    Superb description about the place it was like visiting the place just by reading it. Great work !!!

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