A paradise for nature lovers, Haridwar presents a kaleidoscope of Indian culture and civilization. In the scriptures it has been variously mentioned as Kapilsthan, Gangadwar and Mayapuri.
It is also an entry point to the Char Dham (the four main centers of pilgrimage in Uttarakhand viz, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri), hence, Shaivaites (followers of Lord Shiva) and Vaishnavites (followers of Lord Vishnu) call this place Hardwar and Haridwar respectively, corresponding to Har being Shiv and Hari being Vishnu.
Haridwar is also one of the four places; where Kumbh Mela occurs after rotation of every twelve Years and Ardh Kumbh after every six years. It is said that drops of Amrit (Elixir) fell in to the Brahmkund of Har-Ki-Pairi, therefore considered that a dip in the Brahmakund on this particular day which is very auspicious and when Jupiter (Brahaspati) comes to the sign Aquarius (Kumbh) once in every twelve years the Maha Kumbh fair is celebrated at Haridwar. Kumbh, 1998 was the last Maha Kumbh of this century. Yet beyond the mystic aura and mythology, Haridwar casts another magic spell on the visitor. Being one of the oldest living cities, Haridwar finds its mention in the ancient Hindu scriptures as it waves through the life and time stretching from the period of the Buudha to the more recent British advent. Haridwar has not only remained the abode of the weary in body, mind and spirit, but also served as centre of attraction for many, for learning the arts science and culture. Haridwar’s long standing position as a great source for Ayurvedic medicines and herbal remedies as well as its unique Gurukul school of traditional education, the scenic beauty and lush greenery…all give the city unique flavors and charm; a must among the sojourn centers in a discoverer’s intinary of Uttarakhand – A destination for all seasons.
In the Vanaparva of the Mahabharat, where sage Dhaumya tells Yudhisthira about the tirthas of India, Gangadwar, i.e., Haridwar and Kankhal, have been referred to, the text also mentions that Agastya Rishi did penance here, with the help of his wife, Lopamudra (the princess of Vidharba).
Sage Kapila is said to have an ashram here giving it, its ancient name, Kapila or Kapilastan.
The legendary King, Bhagirath, the great-grandson of the Suryavanshi King Sagar (an ancestor of Rama), is said to have brought the river Ganges down from heaven, through years of penance in Satya Yuga, for the salvation of 60,000 of his ancestors from the curse of the saint Kapila, a tradition continued by thousands of devout Hindus, who brings the ashes of their departed family members, in hope of their salvation. Lord Vishnu is said to have left his footprint on the stone that is set in the upper wall of Har-Ki-Pauri, where the Holy Ganges touches it at all times.
Haridwar from opposite bank of the Ganges, 1866
Haridwar came under the rule of the Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE), and later under the Kushan Empire (c. 1st–3rd centuries). Archaeological findings have proved that terra cotta culture dating between 1700 BCE and 1200 BCE existed in this region. First modern era written evidence of Haridwar is found in the accounts of a Chinese traveller, Huan Tsang, who visited India in 629 AD. during the reign of King Harshavardhan (590–647) records Haridwar as ‘Mo-yu-lo’, the remains of which still exist at Mayapur, a little to the south of the modern town. Among the ruins are a fort and three temples, decorated with broken stone sculptures, he also mentions the presence of a temple, north of Mo-yu-lo called ‘Gangadwara’, Gateway of the Ganges.
“O Yudhishthira, the spot where Ganga rusheth past, cleaving the foremost of mountains which is frequented by Gandharvas and Yakshas and Rakshasas and Apsaras, and inhabited by hunters, and Kinnaras, is called Gangadwara (Haridwar). O King, Sanatkumara regardeth that spot visited by Brahmarshis, as also the Tirtha Kanakhala (that is near to it), as sacred.
— The Mahabharata, Vana Parva: Tirtha-yatra Parva: Section XC. 
The city was also invaded by Timur Lang (1336–1405), a Turkish invader on January 13, 1399.
During his visit to Haridwar, first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak (1469–1539) bathed at ‘Kushwan Ghat’, wherein the famous, ‘watering the crops’ episode took place, his visit is today commemorated by a gurudwara (Gurudwara Nanakwara), according to two Sikh Janamsakhis, this visit took place on the Baisakhi day in 1504 AD, he later also visited Kankhal enroute to Kotdwara in Garhwal. Pandas of the Haridwar have been known to keep genealogy records of most of the Hindu population. Known as vahis, these records are updated on each visit to the city, and are a repository of vast family trees of family in North India.
Ain-e-Akbari, written by Abul Fazal in the 16th century during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar, refers to it as Maya (Mayapur), known as Hardwar on the Ganges”, as seven sacred cities of Hindus. It further mentions it is eighteen kos (each approx. 2 km) in length, and large numbers of pilgrims assemble on the 10th of Chaitra.It also mentions that during his travels and also while at home, Mughal Emperor, Akbar drank water from the Ganges river, which he called ‘the water of immortality’. Special people were stationed at Sorun and later Haridwar to dispatch water, in sealed jars, to wherever he was stationed.
One of the two major dams on the river Ganges, the Bhimgoda, is situated here. Built in 1840s, it diverts the waters of the Ganges to the Upper Ganges Canal, which irrigated the surrounding lands. Though this caused severe deterioration to the Ganges water flow, and is a major cause for the decay of the Ganges as an inland waterway, which till 18th century was used heavily by the ships of the East India Company, and a town as high up as Tehri, was considered a port city The headworks of the Ganges Canal system are located in Haridwar. The Upper Ganges Canal was opened in 1854 after the work began in April 1842, prompted by the famine of 1837-38.The unique feature of the canal is the half-kilometre-long aqueduct over Solani river at Roorkee, which raises the canal 25 metres above the original river.