Just a short introduction to Banaras aslo known as Kashi and some answers to Kavitha's query.
Banaras is the most visited pilgrimage destination in India. It is surrounded by the water of Ganges which is said to be the fluid medium of Shiva's divine essence . A bath in this river is believed to wash away all of one's sins. Banaras is known to be one of the seven Holy Cities, one of the twelve Joytir Linga sites and also a Shakti Pitha site. Moreover, Kashi has more than thirty-three million shrines and half a million images of the deities.Since a pilgrim would need all the years of his/ her life to visit each of these shrines, its wise for people to visit the Holy City and never leave. Its also belived that by merely visiting Kashi, one automatically gains the benefit of visiting all other sacred places such as Rameshvaram, Dwarka, Puri or Kanchipuram.
Most pilgrims make only short trips to Kashi yet others come to spend their remaining years in this Holy City. Kashi is the most favoured place for the Hindus to die and be cremated. Such people who come to live in Kashi with the intention of dying are called jivan muktas meaning those who are liberated while still alive.
Kashi is also traditionally known as Mahashamshana, " the great cremation ground". Hindus believe that cremation of the Holy City insures moksha, or final liberation of the soul from the endless cycles of birth,death adn rebirth. Because of this belief , dying people and dead bodies from far away places are brought to Kashi for cremation at the Manikarnika and other cremation sites.( There are 5 principals and 88 minor cremation/bathing sites along the Ganges.)
" Death in Kashi is not a feared death, for here the ordinary God of Death, frightful Yama, has no jurisdiction. Death in Kashi is death known and faced, transformed and transcended."