Photographer: Prasad, Madho
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the Manikarnika Ghat on the River Ganges, Varanasi from the Kitchener of Khartoum Collection: 'Views of Benares. Presented by the Maharaja of Benares' by Madhao Prasad, c.1905. This is the main cremation ghat of Varanasi, presided over by the Doms, a caste who historically and till now hold exclusive rights over the cremation ghats. In the middle of the Ghat is the Manikarnika kund (tank) which was said to have been dug by Vishnu with his discus and filled with his perspiration from the exertion of creating the world. There are footprints of Vishnu set in a circular marble slab on the ghats. According to legend, Shiva's mani (crest jewel) and his consort Parvati's Karnika (earring) fell into the kund while bathing thus came the name of the ghat. This site is known as a tirtha or ‘crossing place’ where devotees can gain access to the divine and where gods and goddesses can come down to earth. Those who die at Varanasi are considered extremely fortunate and blessed for they attain release from samsara, the unceasing cycle of death and rebirth, and are assured of moksha or enlightenment.