Exploring love throughout the centuries

When love leads to sacrifices and consequences

As February begins, the approaching presence of Valentine’s Day warrants a reflection on some of the most extraordinary love stories in history. Historical tales that not only ignited passion, but also reshaped history, destinies and defied odds across the globe.

Olivia Haill – Argosy Illustrator


In Bihar, India, a notable love story was acted by Dashrath Manjhi, commonly known as the “Mountain Man,” an ordinary laborer from Gehlaur village. Manjhi’s romantic endeavor began when his beloved wife, Falguni Devi, tragically passed away in 1959 due to the injuries sustained from falling off a mountain. The mountain not only claimed his wife’s life but also served as a barrier, preventing access to medical help for the villagers. Motivated by love and sorrow, Manjhi embarked on a mission to carve a path through the hills, which separated his village from essential medical facilities. Armed with nothing but a hammer and a chisel, he tirelessly worked for 22 years, chiseling away the rocky terrain to create a 110-meter-long passage. His commitment to his wife’s memory, coupled with his determination to make life better for his fellow villagers, paints a picture of enduring love and resilience against overwhelming odds.

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas met when Toklas left San Francisco five months after the devastating 1908 earthquake, when Toklas arrived in Paris. They shared an enduring love story that tackled societal norms and lasted four decades. Their relationship began in Paris in 1907, where Toklas, a former concert pianist from San Francisco, encountered Stein, an innovative writer. Despite their differences in appearance and personality, they found common ground in their devotion to Stein’s groundbreaking writing. Their bond deepened over the years as Toklas became Stein’s companion, assistant, and confidante. Toklas supported Stein in her literary pursuits, typing manuscripts and helping in the publication of her works. Stein’s publication of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas in 1933 brought their relationship into the public eye, solidifying Toklas’ place in literary history. Despite challenges like World War II and Stein’s eventual illness and death, Toklas remained steadfast in preserving Stein’s legacy, ensuring that their bond would endure beyond their passing. Stein and Toklas’ relationship challenged societal expectations and paved the way for LGBTQ+ visibility in literature and culture.

Now to explore a love that blossomed over 2000 years ago, we observe Antony, the powerful Roman general, and Cleopatra, the charismatic Queen of Egypt, found themselves drawn together in a cross-cultural union that defied the norms of their time. Their romance blossomed within the background of ancient geopolitics, with Antony’s allegiance to Cleopatra challenging the authority of Rome and threatening the stability of the Roman Empire. Their relationship was marked by extravagant displays of affection and lavish festivities, showcasing the wealth and power of both leaders. However, beneath the surface, their love affair was loaded with tension, as political rivals sought to undermine their union and assert their dominance. Through their legendary love story, Antony and Cleopatra have left a permanent mark in history.

Faizul Hasan Qadri, an 80-year-old resident of Kaser Kalan village in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district, has gathered attention for his remarkable tribute to his late wife, a miniature version of the Taj Mahal. Qadri’s motivation for this project comes from a deep affection for his wife, Tajammuli Begum, whom he was married to for over 58 years until her passing in 2011. Their childless marriage led Begum to request Qadri to build a mausoleum for them, as his wife always feared that she would be forgotten because of her lack of kin. Despite financial challenges, Qadri remained steadfast in his determination to complete the project without external support, fearing that accepting state funds would dilute the personal significance of his tribute. Qadri’s miniature Taj stands not only as a testament to his devotion but also as a symbol for the timeless bond shared between two souls.

Lastly, the love story of Paris and Helen of Troy transcends time, and mythologies state it taking place around 2500 years ago. Therefore it is the only story here that lacks concrete evidence for its occurrence. However, It is renowned for its intensity and enduring consequences. Helen, renowned as the most beautiful woman on earth, fell deeply in love with Paris, a prince of Troy, despite being married to Menelaus, the king of Sparta. Their passionate affair led to Helen fleeing with Paris to Troy, triggering the infamous Trojan War. Despite the gods seemingly orchestrating their love, the consequences of their actions were dire. The Greek kingdoms, outraged by Helen’s abduction, united to wage war against Troy, resulting in one of history’s most famous battles. The love between Paris and Helen, though immortalized in legend, came at a great cost, unleashing untold suffering and destruction. Their story serves as a moving reminder of the power of love to shape destinies and alter the course of history. These four real life stories, and the ending mythological tale convey to us that love provokes intensity, and sparks boldness. Love gives us the courage to defy the constraints of possibility and carve our paths as fantasized.

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