Ghats have been iconic landmarks of Varanasi city. There is no way one can imagine the city without the ghats. If there had been no ghats at the edge of the river, fulfilling a religious commitment would have become difficult as they not only offer steps walking down on which devotees take a bath, but also a plain, concrete platform sitting on which the priest and people complete rituals. Looking to the river from the platform of any ghat stirs the mind and hearts towards an ethereal feeling.
People visit these ghats to offer a prayer and cremate dead bodies of their relatives. The Manikarnika Ghat is regularly used for burning deceased. In Hindu religion, it is necessary to complete certain rites once the deceased is offered to the fire. Burning and performing rituals at this ghat helps the deceased in attaining salvation or moksh.
Two interesting legends shroud the Manikarnika Ghat. The first one says that Lord Vishnu used his chakra to dig a pit here in order to perform some penance. As Lord Shiva was watching the whole process, he drops his earrings, also called as manikarnika, accidentally into the pit. Whereas the second one says that Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva to find her earrings that she lost on the banks of the River Ganga. In reality, Goddess Parvati had hidden the earrings and lied about them being lost just to stop Lord Shiva from moving away with his devotees and stay around. Since then, whenever a body is being cremated here, Lord Shiva has asked about the earrings to the soul if it has seen them.
As the number of bodies being cremated at this ghat is increasing day-by-day, some people cremate the body at the electric incinerator and bring the ash to disperse it in the water here. The ghat is also crowded with shops selling items necessary for rituals thus adding to the economy of the city.