Haridwar finds mention in ancient Hindu scriptures and epics. The present town of Haridwar was known as Mayapuri, Kapilasthan, Gangadwar, and Mokshadwar during different periods. The town got its present name in the 15th century. Haridwar has always remained a major pilgrimage for the devotees through the years.
Haridwar has been the place of meditation of one of the revered saints Kapil. Temples at Har ki Pauri Historically it has been recorded that when river Ganga enters the plains at Haridwar, ashrams of following saints were found; Kashyap, Vashishta, Yani, Vishwamitra, Khamdagini, Bharadwaj and Gautam. Today, the place is famous as Sapt Rishi Ashram and Sapt Sarovar. King Shweta also meditated for God Brahma at this place. King was given a boon from the God that whosoever takes bath at this holy place will get the blessings from the trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. This holy place, in the present times, is known as Brhamakund. According to the legend, Prince Bhagirath performed penance here to salvage the souls of his ancestors who had perished due to sage Kapil’s curse. The penance was answered and the river Ganga trickled forth from Lord Shiva's locks and its bountiful waters revived the sons of King Sagara.
Haridwar is believed to be one of the important places where Pandavas ventured during the Mahabharata period. Mahabhatrata is believed to have taken place in 3000 BC. The present Haridwar was also ruled by Samrat Ashok whose inscriptions are found on the Ashoka Pillar. Following the league of saints who have medidated here, Vikramaditya’s brother Bharthahari finds a special mention as Vikramaditya constructed Brahmakund and the steps as a memorial of his brother Bhagirath, and since then this place is known as ‘Har-Ki-Pauri’.
In the era of King Harshvardhan, a Chinese traveler Hyuen Sang who traveled all over India for 15 years has mentioned about this place in his memoirs which can be correlated to present Mayapuri area in Haridwar. The town was redeveloped in 8 BC and came to be known as ‘Gangadwar’, however, the name Gangadwar also diminished in the ravages of time. The town regained its glory in the Mughal era during Akbar’s reign. Akbar and his ally King Mansingh laid the foundations of present day Haridwar town. The temple constructed by King Mansingh still exists in the midst of Har-Ki-Pauri. Haridwar is also one of the four places where Kumbh Mela occurs after rotation of every twelve Years and Ardh Kumbh Mela is organised after six years of every Kumbh.
River Ganga travels for 213 km to enter the plains at Haridwar. From this place onwards, use of Ganga water for various purposes began with the construction of Ganga Canal in 1858.