There are four places that are special in terms of liberation of the soul from the cycle of births and deaths. They are Thiruvarur, Chidambaram, Thiruvannamalai and Varanasi. It is said that if one is born in Thiruvarur, one gains liberation. If one worships in Chidambaram, one gets moksha.
If one meditates on the Lord at Thiruvannamalai, one gets moksha. If one dies in Varanasi, one gets moksha.
When the time comes for a soul to depart, Lord Siva whispers in the ears of the person the name of Rama which is guaranteed to grant moksha. It is known as the ‘taraka nama’. Lord Krishna’s name is known as the ‘prayaschitta nama’ — the name which one chants for atonement of one’s sins. That is why people submit all their deeds at the feet of Krishna.
In case they have unwittingly done something wrong, chanting the name of Krishna will clear up their sins. Chanting the name of Rama grants one liberation from future births. The sacredness of Varanasi is evident from the fact that the city is associated with moksha, said Sengalipuram Rama Dikshitar, in a discourse. Here Siva Himself welcomes the departing soul, and he whispers the name Rama in the ears of the one whose life is about to end. Adi Sankara composed the Rama Bhujangam, and in one of the verses, he talks of Siva whispering the Ramanama in the ears of a dying person.
Adi Sankara also refers to the episode of Ahalya regaining her original form.
If even the dust on the feet of Rama can turn a stone back into a woman, is there any wonder that those who serve at the Lord’s feet should get moksha, he asks.
He who chants the name of Rama will not be afraid at the time of death. Rama is the One who loves His devotees, and His name has the power to liberate them from the bonds of samsara. That is why Siva whispers the name that offers salvation in the ears of the one whose time to depart from this world has arrived.
Bathing in the Ganga, chanting the name of the river, or even just walking on its banks will cleanse us, and get rid of our sins.