The word is derived from ‘iti + ha’ (‘it seems, it was so’). It refers to legends and because of their didactic value, they are cherished and preserved as a part of ancient tradition. The paurāṇikas (bards) consider it as a source of knowledge valid like pratyakṣa (direct perception), anu-māna (inference) and āgama (scriptural testimony).
The incidents related in the aitihyas usually have a historical basis. In course of time, fact and fiction get fused into an integrated whole. At this distance of time, it is often impossible to distinguish fact from fiction. However, Hindu tradition has always accorded it a very high place.