It is one of the sacred ghats in Varanasi. The ghat is popular cremation process. Boating along the ghat is an important activity here.
This is the place where Hindus cremate bodies. There is a pond near the ghat, which is said to be dug by Lord Vishnu for Shiva and Shakti to bath. The pond is older than the city. Near the pond, you can find a footprint, which is said to be the footprint of Lord Vishnu when he meditated in Varanasi. You can always find dead bodies being burnt along with rituals in the ghat. Some might allow tourists to photograph the rituals but make sure not to disturb them. Every day, more than hundred bodies are cremated here.
You can find a lot of different cremation process here. Burning the body in sandal wood is the most expensive type. The body is dipped in the river before being cremated. Since Shiva promised that Manikarnika will be a peaceful place, it is believed that the death will be at peace.
The ghat has been mentioned in the literatures of 5th century. When Lord Shakti sacrificed herself in fire during a ritual conducted by her father to humiliate Lord Shiva, Lord Shiva took her burning body to Himalaya where he wept for several year with the body. Lord Vishnu decided to end the sorrow and cut the body into 51 pieces that fell on the earth. The place where Shakti’s earring fell is called Manikarnika Ghat. According to another legend, Shiva’s earring fell to the earth when he was ferociously dancing and the spot became Manikarnika Ghat.
In the story of King Harish chandra, the one who never lies, Yama took the king as a slave and made him work in this ghat. When his wife brought his dead son for cremation, he stood by his duty and refused to cremate unless she paid the taxes.
The ghat was later rebuilt in 19th century by the king of Awadh.