Manikarnika Ghat

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Manikarnika Ghat

A “ghat” is literally a flight of steps that descends down to a body of water. One of many ghats in Varanasi, the Manikarnika Ghat, located along the Ganges river, is known for being a site of cremation. It is believed that Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation, was the builder of this particular ghat.


The name Manikarnika literally means “ear jewel”.


Tradition states that after Sati, the incarnation of Aadishakti preceding Parvati, sacrificed herself for the honor of her consort, Lord Shiva and her body was cut up into many different pieces by the sudarshana chakra, disc-like super weapon, of Lord Vishnu. The places where her body parts fell are regarded as sacred places of worship and are known today as Shakti Peethas (energy seats). In all there are 52 Shakti Peethas all over India, and Manikarnika Ghat is one of them, as Sati’s earrings fell at this spot.

Moreover, each of the peethas are guarded over by a Bhairava, a fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva. In Varanasi, Kaala Bhairava, the Lord of Time, is the custodian.

Largest Crematorium

Manikarnika Ghat, the worlds’ largest crematorium, is also famous by the name of Mahasmasana which is one of two cremation Ghats in the Varanasi. Another famous ghat of cremation is Harishchandra Ghat.

Every day around 350 bodies are burnt in Manikarnika ghat and sometimes it goes up to 600 also. For everybody burnt here, it is believed that Mahadeva personally initiates everyone into the Taraka mantra and liberates them. Hindu belief holds that to die in Varanasi and get cremated at Manikarnika Ghat assures one of moksha, or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

This age-old belief was confirmed by Swamiji also during His visit to the ghat. Swamiji saw that the moment Mahadeva initiates the being, that same moment the mantra touches that being and the being is liberated. Coming to terms with reality is Completion and that automatically happens in Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi.

I tell you, sitting with Manikarnika where Mahadeva personally initiates everyone and liberates them, he initiates them into the Taraka Mantra. Please understand, a Shaivite. I may be a Shaivite, but I am telling the truth. He initiates people into Rama Mantra, Rama Nama.He just gives the Rama Nama, Taraka Mantra. Even this time I saw Mahadeva liberates people just by initiating them into Rama Nama. The moment he initiates, the moment the mantra touches that being, they are liberated!

Please listen. Listen. I guarantee you; you don’t have to be a dead body burning in the Manikarnika Ghat. Even if you sit there, in one day you will forget you are alive; you will simply associate yourself with one among the bodies getting burnt, and Mahadeva will initiate you also! - HH Paramahamsa Nithyananda Paramashivam

I tell you, coming to terms with reality is Completion. That automatically happens in Varanasi, in Manikarnika. The fire in the pyres of the Manikarnika Ghat have been continuously burning for centuries.

H.H Paramahamsa Nithyananda’s Death Experience in Varanasi

Death is a mystery, but more importantly, it is a man’s greatest fear. In Vedanta this is one of the most used techniques for enlightenment. In Buddhism, anyone initiated into Sannyas has to spend three months in the cremation grounds and continuously observe bodies being burnt while visualizing him being burnt. Almost all mystical traditions on the planet use this technique to achieve the highest possibility. Logical mind finds it difficult to understand how one simple experience can give such courage.

Swamiji himself had this particular experience in Varanasi. When Swamiji went to Varanasi, Swamiji saw that per day three hundred dead bodies were being cremated in a place called Manikarnika Ghat. Traditionally, it is believed that if somebody leaves the body in that area, or if their body is burnt at Manikarnika Ghat, they will be liberated. Ramakrishna confirms this and says that he saw Mahadeva himself going to every pyre and liberating every soul from their karmas or in-completions. The men working there would carry the bodies to the Ganga River, reaching there by evening. As they walk, they keep chanting ‘Ram Naam Satya Hai’, which means that Lord Rama’s name is the ultimate truth. There is no special ritual involved. Three times the bodies are dipped into the Ganga as they say ‘Raam Naam Satya Hai’.

Swamiji sat there to watch what was going on, and an hour later, death was no more a strange incident that happens once in a blue moon to a distant relative. Bodies of all size, gender, age, color, community and religion were burnt in that hour. When one sees so many bodies, it feels like there is nothing to it. Everyone has to leave their body some day and the breath that goes into them does not come out, that is all.

Knowing that death is inevitable will bring down the respect that one has for the ego. Whatever that one thinks should not leave them is their ego. When one knows for sure that everything is going to leave them, the respect for the ego goes down immensely. Being a very straightforward person, Swamiji immediately dropped his ego and decided that if he’s going to die after all, he should have a death experience now itself and live without the fear or die and see for himself. He sat down in a small Shiva temple nearby and started watching the dead bodies being burnt. The big ‘click’ that he remembers even to this day happened when an old lady’s body was being burnt and he could see the fat from her stomach melting. This fat made the fire burn brighter and this made him think that the very same thing is going to happen to him. This opened up a deep, terrible fear of death in him and he faced it consciously.

The fear was spreading all over his body and when it met his awareness, it became a death experience. He saw clearly that his body was dead. For two and a half days, he did not sleep, eat, drink or think. Suddenly the ‘click’ happened that his body is dead but he still exists. This was such an intense ecstasy that the fear of death just left. Slowly he opened his eyes, and the first thing he felt was a deep gratitude. He performed a small pooja for Vishwanatha (name of Lord Shiva in Varanasi temple) and he could see clearly that Vishwanatha was alive. When he died, Vishwanatha became alive to him. Till the previous day, because he was alive, Vishwanatha was a dead stone.

When a fear is suppressed, it stays inside the person. When one does not consciously face the fear, it shakes his whole nervous system. However, when it is faced consciously, it becomes a death experience.

As Mahadeva says in the Shiva Sutras, “Visualize the fire rising out of your body slowly, let your form be burnt, let your body turn to ashes, but not you”.