From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Itihāsa literally means ‘thus it was’.

Itihāsa, an epic[edit]

The Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata are known as ‘itihāsa’ or epics. An itihāsa narrates the incidences that occurred in the past and come down by oral tradition. It is put into writing later on.

Content of the Itihāsa[edit]

As per the definition given in Sanskrit works, an itihāsa must contain topics dealing with all the four puruṣārthas. They are:

  1. Dharma - virtue
  2. Artha - wealth
  3. Kāma - desires of the flesh
  4. Mokṣa - emancipation

This is generally done through the narration of incidents that took place in the olden days. The words ‘itihāsa’ and ‘purāṇa’ have often been mentioned in the Vedic literature.[1] But it is difficult to make out the difference between the two from these literatures.


  1. Atharvaveda 15.6.4; Śatapatha Brāhmana; Brhadāranyaka Upanisad 2.4.10
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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