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Some of the prominent and popular Ghats at Varanasi are the Dasaswamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Harischandra Ghat, Kabir Ghat and Assi Ghat. Manikarnika Ghat and Harishchandra Ghat are the two cremation ghats in Varanasi.
The oldest, Manikarnika Ghat is considered the holiest of all the ghats.
There arer legends associated with Manikarnika Ghat.According to one, when Mata Sati sacrificed her life and set her body ablaze after Raja Daksh Prajapati tried to humiliate Lord shiva in a Yagya practiced by Daksh. Lord Shiva took her burning body to Himalay. While going to Himalaya Mata Sati's parts of body started falling on earth. Lord Shiva established Shakti Peeth wherever Sati's body had fallen. At Manikarnika ghat, Mata Sati's Ear's ornament had fallen. This ghat which symbolizes both creation and destruction is located in the heart of the city at the center of the five tirthas.
According to the religious beliefs, cremation is considered to be liberation an it is believed that all beings who die here would be liberated and ensures a safe place in Heaven. Aamong devotees there is a widespread belief that, burning the dead bodies in the cremation ground located at this ghat is a way to attain Moksha, the salvation.
Manikarnika Ghat is also known as the Mahasmasana (the great cremation ground) is a perfect place for symbolising both creation and destruction.
A sacred well named Manikarnika Kund, said to be dug by Lord Vishnu is situated behind and slightly down river of the manikarnika burning ghat.
The ghat also houses a Shiva Durga Temple, which was constructed by Maharaja of Awadh in 1850. Upon the Manikarnika Ghat is a large round slab called Charanapaduk, the footprints of Vishnu that are set in a circular marble slab. It is believed that Lord Vishnu mediated for years at this spot for performing of ascetic rites and the worshipping of Lord Shiva.
Apart from this, a sacred pond named Cakra-Pushkarini Kund is also present within the borders of ghat. This pond was also dug by Lord Vishnu and existed long before the origin of river Ganges.
The Ghat opens at 5:30 am and closes at 11:00 pm, the last visitor allowed in at 10:30 pm. One can reach this ghat both by boat and on foot.
Thousands of Hindu pilgrims take holy dip here in the months of Chaitya (March/ April) and Magh (Jan/Feb) and other important occasions like solar/ lunar eclipse, Ganga Dussehra, Probodhoni Ekadashi, Makar Shankranti etc.
Photography is strictly prohibited here.