The name of the town has two spellings: Hardwar and Haridwar. Each of these names has its own connotation. In Sanskrit, Hara means “Lord Shiva” and Dwara means “gate” or “gateway”. Hence, Hardwar stands for “Gateway to Lord Shiva”. Hardwar has been a typical place to start a pilgrim’s journey in order to reach Mount Kailash, the eternal abode of Lord Shiva, Kedarnath, the northern most Jyotirlinga and one of the sites of the smaller Char Dham pilgrimage circuit and Gaumukh, the source of River Ganga. Har ki Pauri or footsteps of Lord Shiva is considered the most sacred site in Hardwar. On the other hand, Hari means “Lord Vishnu”. So, Haridwar stands for “The Gateway to Lord Vishnu”. In order to reach Badrinath, one of the four Char Dhams, with a temple of Lord Vishnu, Haridwar is a typical place to start a pilgrim’s journey. Therefore, the name Haridwar.
The River Ganges (Ganga), after flowing for 253 kilometres (157 mi) from its source at Gaumukh at the edge of the Gangotri Glacier, enters the Indo-Gangetic Plains of North India for the first time at Haridwar, which gave the city its ancient name, Gangadwára.
Haridwar is regarded as one of the seven holiest places (Sapta Puri) toHindus. According to the Samudra manthan, Haridwar along with Ujjain,Nashik and Prayag (Allahabad) is one of four sites where drops of Amrit, the elixir of immortality, accidentally spilled over from the pitcher while being carried by the celestial bird Garuda. This is manifested in the Kumbha Mela being celebrated every 3 years in one of the 4 places, and thus every 12 years in Haridwar. Amidst the Kumbha Mela, millions of pilgrims, devotees, and tourists congregate in Haridwar to perform ritualistic bathing on the banks of the river Ganges to wash away their sins to attain Moksha. Brahma Kund, the spot where the Amrit fell, is located at Har ki Pauri (literally, “footsteps of the Lord”) and is considered to be the most sacred ghat of Haridwar.
In the scriptures, Haridwar has been variously mentioned as Kapilasthana, Gangadwara and Mayapuri. It is also an entry point to the Char Dham (the four main centres 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 Hara being Shiv and Hari being Vishnu.
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).
The legendary King, Bhagiratha, 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 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.
The city also fell to the Central Asian conqueror Timur Lang (1336–1405) on 13 January 1399.
During his visit to Haridwar, first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak (1469–1539) bathed at ‘Kushawart 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 en route 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.
During the Mughal period, there was mint for Akbar’s copper coinage at Haridwar. It is said that Raja Man Singh of Amber, laid that foundation of the present day city of Haridwar and also renovated the ghats at Hark Ki Pauri. After his death, his ashes are also said to have been immersed at Brahma Kund by Mughal emperor Akbar himself. Thomas Coryat, an English traveller, who visited the city in the reign of Emperor Jahangir (1596–1627) mentions it as ‘Haridwara’, the capital of Shiva.
Being one of the oldest living cities, Haridwar finds its mention in the ancient Hindu scriptures as it weaves through the life and time stretching from the period of the Buddha, to the more recent British advent. Haridwar has a rich and ancient religious and cultural heritage. It still has many old havelis and mansions bearing exquisite murals and intricate stonework.
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.
Haridwar as a part of the United Province, 1903 : ‘Haridwar Union Municipality’ was constituted in 1868, which included the then villages of Mayapur and Kankhal. Haridwar was first connected with railways, via Laksar, through branch line in 1886, when the Awadh and Rohilakhand Railway line was extended through Roorkee to Saharanpur, this was later extended to Dehradun in 1900. In 1901, it had a population of 25,597 and was a part of the Roorkee tehsil, in Saharanpur district of the United Province, and remained so till the creation of Uttar Pradesh in 1947.
Places of interest…
Har Ki Pauri
This sacred Ghat was constructed by King Vikramaditya (1st century BC) in memory of his brother Bharthari. It is believed that Bharthari came to Haridwar and meditated on the banks of the holy Ganges. When he died, his brother constructed a Ghat in his name, which later came to be known as Har Ki Pauri. The most sacred ghat within Har Ki Pauri is Brahmakund. The evening prayer (Aarti) at dusk offered to Goddess Ganga at Har Ki Pauri (steps of God Hara or Shiva) is an enchanting experience for any visitor. A spectacle of sound and colour is seen when, after the ceremony, pilgrims float Diyas (floral floats with lamps) and incense on the river, commemorating their deceased ancestors. Thousands of people from all around the world do make a point to attend this prayer on their visit to Haridwar. A majority of present ghats were largely developed in the 1800s. On the night of Dussehra or a few days before that the Ganga Canal is dried in Haridwar to clean the riverbed. The water is restored on Dewali. It is believed that on Dussera Maa Ganga goes to her father’s house and returns after Bhai Duj or Bhai Phota. It is for this reason that the waters in the Ganga canal in Haridwar are partially dried on the night of Dussehra and the waters are restored on the day of Bhai Duj or Bhai Phota.
Chandi Devi Temple
The temple is dedicated to Goddess Chandi, who sits atop the ‘Neel Parvat’ on the eastern bank of the river Ganges. It was constructed in 1929 A.D. by the king ofKashmir, Suchat Singh. Skanda Purana mentions a legend, in which Chanda-Munda, the Army Chief of a local Demon Kings Shumbha and Nishumbha were killed by goddess Chandi here, after which the place got the name Chandi Devi. It is believed that the main statue was established by the Adi Shankaracharya in 8th century A.D. The temple is a 3 km trek from Chandighat and can also be reached through a ropeway.
Mansa Devi Temple
Situated at the top of Bilwa Parwat, the temple of Goddess Mansa Devi, literally meaning the Goddess who fulfills desires (Mansa), is a popular tourist destination, especially because of the cable cars, which offer a picturesque view of the entire city. The main temple houses two idols of the Goddess, one with three mouths and five arms, while the other one has eight arms.
Maya Devi Temple
Dating to the 11th century, this ancient temple of Maya Devi, the Adhishthatri Devi (Patron Goddess) of Haridwar, is considered one of the Siddhapithas and is said to be the place where the heart and navel of Goddess Sati had fallen. It is one of few ancient temples still standing in Haridwar, along with Narayani Shila temple and Bhairav Temple.
The ancient temple of Daksha Mahadev also known as Daksheshwar Mahadev Temple, is situated in the south Kankhal town. According to Hindu texts, King Daksha Prajapati, father ofDakshayani, Lord Shiva’s first wife, performed a yagña, to which he deliberately did not invite Lord Shiva. When she arrived uninvited, he was further insulted by the king, seeing which Sati felt infuriated and self-immolated herself in the yagna kund. King Daksha was later killed by the demon Virabhadra, born out of Shiva’s anger. Later the king was brought to life and given a goat’s head by Shiva. Daksha Mahadev temple is a tribute to this legend. Sati Kund, another well-known mythological heritage worth a visit is situated in theKankhal. Legend has it that Sati immolated herself in this kund.
A modern temple, made entirely of glass pieces, Pawan Dham is now a popular tourist destination. The temple complex was constructed by the effort of Swami Vedantanand Maharaj and the institute located there is growing under the leadership of Swami Sahaj Prakash Maharaj. People from Moga in Punjab have put considerable efforts and money to erect this place.
Bharat Mata Mandir
Bharat Mata Mandir is a multi-storey temple dedicated to Bharat Mata (Mother India). Bharat Mata Mandir was inaugurated on 15 May 1983 by Indira Gandhi on the banks of the river Ganges. It is situated adjacent to the Samanvaya Ashram, and stands eight stories tall to a height of 180 feet (55 m). Each floor depicts an era in the Indian history, from the days of Ramayana until India’s independence.
On the first floor is the statue of Bharat Mata. The second floor, Shur Mandir, is dedicated to the well renowned heroes of India. The third floor Matri Mandir is dedicated to the achievements of India’s revered women, such as Radha, Mira, Savitri,Draupadi, Ahilya, Anusuya, Maitri, Gargi etc. The great saints from various religions, including Jainism, Sikhism, andBuddhism are featured on the fourth floor Sant Mandir. The assembly hall with walls depicting symbolic coexistence of all religions practised in India and paintings portraying history and beauty in various provinces, is situated on the fifth floor. The various forms of the Goddess Shakti can be seen on the sixth floor, whilst the seventh floor is devoted to all incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The eighth floor holds the shrine of Lord Shiva from which devotees can gain a panoramic view of Himalayas, Haridwar, and the splendour of the entire campus of Sapta Sarovar. The temple was built under the former Shankaracharya Maha-Mandleshwar Swami Satyamitranand Giri Maharaj. Since the inception of the Swami Satyamitranand foundation in 1998, several other branches have been opened, namely in Renukut, Jabalpur, Jodhpur, Indore, and Ahmedabad.
Sapta Rishi Ashram and Sapta Sarovar
A picturesque place near Haridwar, where seven great sages or Saptarishis, namely Kashyapa, Vashishtha, Atri,Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadwaja and Gautama, said to have meditated. The Ganges split herself into seven currents at this place so that the Rishis would not be disturbed by the flow.
Situated in Harihar Ashram, Kankhal. Parad Shivalinga (Mercury Shivalinga) weighing about 150 kg and Rudraksha tree are the main attractions here.
Anandamayi Maa Ashram
Situated in Kankhal, one of five sub-cities of Haridwar, the ashram houses the samadhi shrine of Sri Anandamoyi Ma (1896–1982), a noted saint of India.
Shantikunj is the headquarters of famous spiritual and social organisation All World Gayatri Pariwar (AWGP) established byPandit Shriram Sharma Acharya. It is located at a distance of 6 kilometers from Haridwar railway station towards Rishikesh/Dehradun on NH58. At the bank of the holy Ganges and between the Shivalik ranges of the Himalayas, its also a place of attraction for tourists as well as seekers of spiritual guidance.