Kāśī is another name for Vārāṇasī (Benares). It has been a place of pilgrimage since time immemorial. Two rivers named Asiḥ and Varuṇā merge there. Maṇikarṇikā is famous because, according to the opinion of great personalities, a bejeweled earring fell there from the ear of Lord Viṣṇu. According to some, it fell from the ear of Lord Śiva. The word maṇi means “jewel,” and karṇikā means “from the ear.” According to some, Lord Viśvanātha is the great physician who cures the disease of material existence by delivering a person through the ear, which receives the vibration of the holy name of Lord Rāma. Because of this, this holy place is called Maṇikarṇikā. It is said that there is no better place than where the river Ganges flows, and the bathing ghat known as Maṇikarṇikā is especially sanctified because it is very dear to Lord Viśvanātha. In the Kāśī-khaṇḍa it is said:
- saṁsāri-cintāmaṇir atra yasmāt
- tārakaṁ saj-jana-karṇikāyām
- śivo ’bhidhatte saha-sānta-kāle
- tad gīyate ’sau maṇi-karṇiketi
- mukti-lakṣmī mahā-pīṭha-maṇis tac-caraṇābjayoḥ
- karṇikeyaṁ tataḥ prāhur yāṁ janā maṇi-karṇikām
According to this passage from the Kāśī-khaṇḍa, one who gives up his body at Maṇikarṇikā is liberated simply by remembering Lord Śiva’s name.