NETIHASA: How to become a Good Ancestor ?

Navi Radjou
2 min readDec 12, 2023

I am as much interested in ITIHASA as in NETIHASA

In Sanskrit, Itihasa means “So indeed it was” or “This is what happened”

For Hindus, an Itihasa “is a story that tells about what happened in the past in the land of India. Itihasas are usually epic poems. The important itihasas to Hindus are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata”.

For Hindus, time is cyclical: History has a nasty tendency to repeat itself.

Hence, an Itihasa — say, a tragic event like a WAR that happened in the past — could well repeat itself in the future

Yesterday, I discussed with an old friend Kevin O’Marah who told me he is reading a book that shows how today in 2023 we have all the conditions reunited that are similar to the ones that existed in early 20th century and led to the First World War (WWI)

Today, our generation recounts WWI as an “Itihasa” — this is what happened over a century ago

But TODAY we face the same conditions that could well lead to a World War III

So the big question is: How do WE ensure that our descendants in early 22nd century won’t recollect our current period as an Itihasa that caused a lot of trauma ?

This is where I found an inspiring article in The Times of India by Devdutt Pattanaik, an amazing Indian mythologist, very useful.

In his article titled “Line, Circle and Spiral: three ways of organizational thinking”, Pattanaik explains the symbolic meaning of the 2 instruments held by the Hindu god Vishnu:

- the wheel or chakra in his right hand

- the shankha or conch-shell in his left hand

The wheel reminds us that all things have a cyclical nature and you can’t change it. Certain circumstances arise today as they arose in the past and will arise again in the future.

The spiral denotes the evolution of our consciousness : it reckons our human CAPACITY (potential) to expand our awareness and cultivate our wisdom so we can think and act consciously.

The spiral “tempers” the effects of the wheel — so that when similar circumstances from the past arise again in the present we can choose to RESPOND MINDFULLY to these circumstances rather than REACT viscerally or become FATALISTIC and let (bad) things repeat themselves and lead to the same disastrous consequences as it happened once.

When we consciously handle the Present and avoid wars and climate crises from repeating themselves, our descendants will remember our current period as NETIHASA — “this is what did NOT happen”.

And that’s exactly what it means to become a GOOD ANCESTOR.



Navi Radjou

Indian-French-American Scholar in Frugal Innovation + Wise Leadership. TED Speaker. Based in France. Visit: