Itihasa Purana Tradition of Ancient India


Ancient Indians were well acquainted with art rather than the sciences of historiography. The beginning of the itihasa-purana tradition is marked by the works of Vedavyasa.


Itihasa refers to the collection of written accounts of events that were witnessed by the author. This means the itihasa can be called a credible source of history. Itihasa includes the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Ramayana compared to Mahabharata is less complex and follows a very linear tale.

The Mahabharata consists of a complicated theme of tradition, mythology, and culture. It begins with the Dwapara Yuga. The Mahabharata is a story about the Pandavas and the Kauravas, the sons of Pandu and Dhritarashtra respectively. 

It begins with the childhood of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, how they were raised and brought up. Their education and their training was in warcraft. The Mahabharata tells of the feud that arose between the Pandavas and Kauravas, as the Pandavas were denied their rightful kingdom. 

It ends with the defeat of Kauravas by the Pandavas, the fall of the Yadavas, the clan of Krishna (an avatar of Lord Vishnu). Later it tells how Yudhister (eldest son of Pandu) transcends to heaven.

Ramayana is set in the Satya Yuga and is written by Valmiki. Ramayana speaks about Prince Rama (an avatar of Lord Vishnu), who came to earth to set an example for mankind. 

In Ramayana, Prince Ram is born to the king of Ayodhya Dashrath and tells about the deeds of Rama, how he went into exile for fourteen years and fought with Ravana (king of Lanka) and won.


Puranas refer to the ancient texts which have been compiled after the events took place. Which means the author did not witness the events. There are many puranas as compared to itihasa.

Some of the puranas are the Vishnu Purana, Shiv Purana, Brahma Samhita, and Markandeya Purana. The puranas cover a vast number of topics like the creation of the universe, the first gods, the science of medicine, philosophy, and many more things.

Significance of Itihasa-Purana Tradition:

The itihasa-purana tradition marked the beginning of ancient Indian historical tradition. These are the only sources of which tell us about ancient India. The itihasa and the puranas tell us a lot about the ancient period. 

Like the social and cultural practices of the ancient period. The itihasa like the Mahabharata mentions the genealogy of the lunar dynasty, while the Ramayana mentions the genealogy of the solar dynasty. The mention of both the dynasties can even be found in the Vedas.

Archaeological evidence is also found of the cities mentioned in the two itihasa. According to the findings, the city of Ayodhya (mentioned in Ramayana) and Hastinapur (mentioned in Mahabharata) were pre-urban settlements when the events took place.


The itihasa purana tradition helps us to draw an image of the past, though not a very true and reliable one. There are many facts and figures in the itihasa and purana that have been changed. 

Like the Mahabharata originally had eight thousand eight hundred shlokas, but at present, it has one lakh shlokas. And the Ramayana originally had six thousand shlokas but at present has twenty-four thousand shlokas.

There are many instances in the itihasa and puranas which are hard to believe in today's world like flying saucers, the elixir of life. Due to these reasons many historians disregard the credibility of the itihasa and puranas, considering them to be superficial and unreliable.

However, it cannot be said that they are completely untrue. There are many facts and information mentioned in them like the cities of Ayodhya and Hastinapur which are found by archeologists. The lineages of kings mentioned are also found to be true even though the order is not perfect.

Written by: Priyanshu Bhardwaj

Edited by: Gourav Chowdhury