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8 Unforgettable Love Stories That Lived Beyond The Pages Of History

“… i didn’t fall in love of course

it’s never up to you

but she was walking back and forth

and i was passing through”

-Leonard Cohen, Book of Longing

We were all made out of blueprints spelled L-O-V-E. My father once told me that life was about having stories to tell; that you measured happiness in all the tales you could tell a group gathered by the fire. I believed him. Love, too, is an adventure. Like Coelho said,

“Love can take us to heaven or hell, but it always takes us somewhere. Therefore, be prepared to travel…”.

Suggested read: Why great love stories do not always have a happily ever after

I’ve seen waterfalls and fiery dungeons, fireworks and sinking ships, all in the same love story. I could tell you what love feels like, five times over, in five different ways, but they’d be as unlike each other as night is to day. That’s the best thing about love stories- you’ll never find two alike. Today, let’s discuss eight such love stories in history that burned so bright, we can still see them, several generations down the line.

1. Salim-Anarkali


Image source: Google copyright free image, under Creative Commons License 

“Kaanton ko murjhaane ka khauff nahi hota”
(Thorns do not fear death)

How you know them: ‘Mughal-e-Azam’, directed by K. Asif.
The time-period they claimed: 1580-1600

Salim, was the son of the renowned Mughal Emperor, Akbar. He fell in love with a beautiful courtesan named Anarkali. This outraged Akbar’s sense of royalty and he castigated the lovers. She, being a dancing girl wasn’t from a “noble birth”, and Salim, being a prince, it would be blasphemy for him to associate with anybody below his standards. The emperor undertook various tactics to make Anarkali fall in the eyes of Salim, so he may renounce his love for her, but when Salim realized this plot, he declared war against his father, which he inevitably lost and was sentenced to death. In order to keep him alive, Anarkali denied the love affair. However, she was entombed alive in a brick wall, right in front of Salim’s eyes. Some say that the tomb had a secret tunnel through which she escaped, never to return again. But Salim, who went on to be Jahangir, spent his entire life mourning his one true love, and died with her name on his lips.

What you learn: Even today, we see lovers parting ways because their families wouldn’t allow it. In the remote villages of India, honor killing is still rampant, your race/caste determines your marriage. It’s high time the world realized that none of that matters. No skin color is deep enough, and no birth low enough, to stand in the way of love.

2. Layla-Majnun

I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla
And I kiss this wall and that wall
It’s not Love of the walls that has enraptured my heart
But of the One who dwells within them”
Qays ibn al-Mulawwah

How you know them: Folk-lore.
The time-period they claimed: The first poem about them originated in 11th century Arabia.

Qays ibn al-Mulawwah was just a boy when he fell in love with Layla. He was devoted to her and wrote several poems that he would read at street corners, proclaiming his love to anybody who would listen. People called him ‘Majnun’, meaning ‘the possessed’. When he asked for Layla’s hand in marriage, her father did not want to give her to a madman, and so, married her off to somebody else. This caused him great distress and he receded into the wilderness, writing poetry, and reading it to himself. Layla was a faithful wife, but when her husband passed away, she finally thought she would be united with her lover, but society forbade her to leave home, and compelled her to grieve for 2 more years. Layla couldn’t bear the distress any longer and died of a broken heart. When Majnun received news about her death, he travelled to where she was kept, and died weeping his heart out by her grave.

What you learn: Several times, we judge people on the basis of what we’ve heard about them. We openly criticize our friend’s choice, not knowing the truth about their relationship. He may be too-anything, but if he makes her happy, then please let them live like it’s nobody else’s business.

3. Shah Jahan-Mumtaz Mahal

“Rahul had wondered how someone could love their beloved so much that their dedication to them became one of the wonders of the world.”
-Faraaz Kazi

How you know them: The Taj Mahal is a testament.
The time-period they claimed: 1612-1631

Shah Jahan, the son of Jahangir, was 14 years old, strolling down the Meena Bazaar, accompanied by fawning courtiers, when he caught sight of Arjumand Banu Begum, hawking silk and glass beads. She was a Persian princess of 15. He went home and told his father he had found his match. He grew to have other wives too, but none that he loved as much/more than Begum. He named her ‘Mumtaz Mahal’ meaning ‘the jewel of the palace’. When Mumtaz died, giving birth to her 14th child, he promised to build her a mausoleum and never marry again. The court went into two years of mourning, and he took 22 years and 22,000 workers to erect a monument in her memory that went on to become one of the Seven Wonders of the World. When he died, his tomb was buried beside her, in a secret chamber of the Taj Mahal.

What you learn: Some stories become so big, that history ceases to be enough to contain them.

4. Romeo-Juliet


Image source: Google copyright free image, under Creative Commons License 

 “I defy you, stars.”
-Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

How you know them: Shakespeare penned the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ between 1591-1596.
The time-period they claimed: The Renaissance period, Verona

Romeo and Juliet fell in love with each other at a party. However, since they came from families that hated each other, they soon realized that they would never be allowed to be together. So, with the help of Friar Lawrence, they got married in secret. Before their wedding night, Romeo had killed Juliet’s cousin in a duel, and so, was banished from seeing Juliet. He could not return to the city where a death sentence awaited him. Juliet’s parents implored her to marry Paris as they are oblivious to her marriage with Romeo. She refused in the beginning, but gave in soon after, planning her escape by faking death. Friar Lawrence gave her a sleeping potion, and she was put in a tomb. However, Romeo, not knowing the plan, visited the grave, and on finding her dead, killed himself. When Juliet awakened, she found her lover dead by the side of her tomb. She kissed him, hoping that the remnant of the poison would kill her, but hearing the approaching watch, she unsheathed Romeo’s dagger and stabbed herself with it.

What you learn: Communicate with your partner. Often, in the modern day world, despite having various modes of communication, we isolate ourselves more and more, which leads to a lot of misunderstanding. Maybe you’ll be the first couple in all of history to use language for it’s primary purpose: communication.

Suggested read: 14 2-line love stories that will make you happy and sad at the same time

5. Antony-Cleopatra


Image source: Google copyright free image, under Creative Commons License 

“In time we hate that which we often fear. (1.3.13)”
-Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra

How you know them: Shakespeare’s play “Antony and Cleopatra”.

The time-period that they claimed: 41 B.C (Real lovers)

The love between Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra, and Marcus Antonius, is remembered in history for the fatal end. It is one of those love stories in history that is known for the unfulfilled love and death of the lovers. After they were defeated by the Romans, under Octavius, Antony received false news that Cleopatra had died in Egypt while he was away. Being unable to bear the news, he stabbed himself to death. Cleopatra was inconsolable. Caesar took Cleopatra as prisoner, planning to display her across Rome, in a procession, but Cleopatra arranged for poisonous snakes that bit her and her aides, thus dying mid-way. Caesar had the lovers buried next to each other, and in Shakespeare’s version, honored them by saying, “no grave upon the earth shall clip in it a pair so famous.”

What you learn: The greatest tragedy Cleopatra underwent was Antony’s absence. He spent the greater part of their togetherness away from her, dealing with war. Don’t ever let your partner feel alone. Even if you’re seven million miles away, conquering every Rome there is, don’t forget the person you’ve built your home within.

6. Orpheus-Eurydice

“Yet the story of Orpheus, it occurs to me, is not just about the desire of the living to resuscitate the dead but about the ways in which the dead drag us along into their shadowy realm because we cannot let them go. So we follow them into the Underworld, descending, descending, until one day we turn and make our way back.”
― Meghan O’Rourke

How you know them: Greek Mythology

Orpheus is famed for his music, which won over all hearts: humans, wild beasts, and even the stones. After Orpheus and Eurydice got married, the latter was bitten by a snake that very night, and died. Orpheus travelled to the Underworld, in search of his wife, charming the gods of Hades with his music. He struck a deal with Hades and Persephone, who allowed him to take Eurydice back with him, provided she walked by his side and he never looked at her, while climbing up. However, overcome by passion, Orpheus turned around, while they’re almost near the exit, to check if Eurydice was following him, and she faded away, to be lost in the Underworld forever. Orpheus roamed Greece, for the rest of his life, playing sad songs, until he was torn to shreds by a gang of drunk women.

What you learn: Two things: 1) Bringing you back from the dead is definitely the new #relationshipgoal. There is nothing that beats this. 2) Be a little less impulsive, and always think your actions through.

7. Pyramus-Thisbe


Image source: Google copyright free image, under Creative Commons License 

“Two, by themselves, each other, love and fear,
Slain, cruel friends, by parting have join’d here.”

-John Donne

How you know them: Ovid’s Metamorphosis

Pyramus and Thisbe were based in Babylon. They were neighbors, and their families hated each other. As they grew up, they fell in love, and would whisper to each other through the crack in the wall that separated them. A point arrived when they couldn’t bear the distance any longer, and decided to elope. Thisbe arrived at the tomb of Ninus, where they had planned to meet, only to find a lioness there, whose face was blood-stained from a recent kill. Thisbe fled the scene, screaming, leaving her scarf behind. The lioness drank water from a nearby stream and proceeded to tear her scarf apart. Pyramus, misunderstanding the situation, stabbed himself to death, followed by Thisbe who returned to find her lover dead. The mulberry tree, formerly white, is still said to be tainted red with the color of their blood.

What you learn: Never ask your lover to meet you where there might be a lion. Adventure is important, but so is your life.

8. Bonnie-Clyde


Image source: Google copyright free image, under Creative Commons License 

“They were just two kids who fell in love and fell off the wrong side of the law’s fence, and that was what it was.”
-Boots Hinton, who runs the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum.

How you know them: ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, directed by Arthur Penn
The time-period they claimed: The Great Depression, USA.

Bonnie and Clyde are my favorite in this entire list, because they were the least conventionally romantic. They were what all lovers should be: not murderers, or thieves, but best friends. When Clyde Chestnut Barrow, met Bonnie Elizabeth Parker, the former had a criminal record. However, that didn’t make Bonnie change her mind about him. They proceeded to become a Dangerous Duo, with their gang being responsible for the death of at least nine police officers and several civilians. They were ambushed by the police in Bienville Parish, Louisiana in 1934 and killed. They wished to be buried together but Bonnie’s parents didn’t approve of it. Every year, the anniversary of their ambush in celebrated in the “Bonnie and Clyde festival” hosted in the town of Gibsland.

What you learn: Your partner is your comrade. Sometimes, instead of judging him/her, strap on your guns and hop onto the bandwagon with them. They need you on their side of the war.

Suggested read: Top 10 shocking love stories that ended in murder

Surfing through all these love stories in history, and studying them, reassures me that finding love is one of the major purposes we were born with. There is no way I’d ever leave this earth without having felt the magic they say makes your heart expand wider than the universe. It’s the only phenomenon that has defied all laws of physics, chemistry, and most definitely, logic.

“There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.”
― Sarah DessenThe Truth About Forever

Here’s hoping you find your share of the galaxy in another human! 

Featured image source: Google copyright free image, under Creative Commons License 

Article Name
8 Most Unforgettable Love Stories In History
Here are 8 love stories in history that burned so bright, we can still see them, several generations down the line.
Meghalee Mitra

Meghalee Mitra

My introductions have always been "I'm too awkward for this." My exercise routine comprises oscillating between being serious and bat-shit-crazy, laziness, and hyper-activity. I love words, live for food, and am always looking for magic.