Manikarnika Ghat is one of the oldest ghats in Varanasi. It is believed that if a person is cremated here, the person attains moksha (liberation).
The place Manikarnika is believed where the earrings of Goddess Adi Shakti (consort of Lord Shiva) fell at this Ghat and thus, acquired the name Manikarnika but similar believe exist for another place called Manikaran at Kasol, Himachal Pradesh.
The fire burns 24/7 here and there are countless bodies received each day. There are variety of wood to choose for example, mango wood per kg cost Rs1,000 and sandalwood cost around Rs7,000 upto Rs10,000 from the information I gathered from the person selling the wood. This was very difficult to take in especially when one has departed and at the gates of liberation, one has to pay for his/her way out.
There are many ashrams for people who can't afford their own funeral where the funeral is taken care by the ashram where people come to live and thereafter, the soul departs from their body.