One of the most auspicious and sacred ghats of the Hindus, Manikarnika is a significant ground for cremation. It is located between Dashashwamedh Ghat and Scindia Ghat. There is a pond nearby Manikarnika Ghat that is believed to have been dug by Lord Vishnu so that Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti could bathe. A footprint near the pond is said to belong to Lord Vishnu, left from the time when he had meditated in Varanasi. As one goes up the steps, they can see a well-known tank, called Manikarnika well. Legend has it that Goddess Parvati dropped her earring here and Lord Shiva dug a hole to find it. It is said that the depression was filled with his sweat, thereby resulting in a well.

The ghat has also been mentioned in some pieces of literature of the 5th century. It is said that when Goddess Shakti immolated herself in her father's yagya (fire ritual), her husband, Lord Shiva was bereaved, and maddened with grief, he carried her corpse on his shoulder and traversed the whole universe. Terrified that Lord Shiva's dance of cosmic destruction (tandava) would destroy the whole universe, Lord Vishnu shredded Shakti's body with his chakra. The place where her earring fell is called Manikarnika.

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