Back when courting as we know it was almost non-existent and pairing techniques like blind dates, professional matchmakers, and online dating weren’t a trend yet, couples found each other through their unique ways. Of course, the challenges of their time resulted in couples like Henry II and Rosamund Clifford, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and the fictional Romeo and Juliet (whose possibility of real-life existence is under debate).
But there were couples like poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, poet Percy Shelley and Frankenstein author Mary Godwin-Shelley, and Roman general Mark Antony and Egyptian queen Cleopatra, who found love amidst the barriers. And there were the ones who did not content themselves with a relationship. They had to build a monument to their enduring (or broken) love affair.
The next time you find yourself traveling, visit some of these places that bore witness to the struggles and triumphs of the heart.
Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh, Northern India
As you probably know, this is the most famous “love monument,” located in the Agra District of Uttar Pradesh, within the Mughal garden near the Yamuna River. The famous story states that Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan had this massive mausoleum built for the memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died from childbirth. Other side stories, however, have emerged in recent years about Shah Jahan’s possible role in the death of Mumtaz, as well as a tragic outcome of this death that involves their daughter Jahan Ara. Whatever the real story is, one thing remains: the Taj Mahal is an architectural wonder of marble and a sight to behold.
Le Petit Trianon, Versailles, France
This neoclassical landmark laid witness to two stories of love. Louis XV ordered its construction as a gift to his chief mistress and longtime love, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, more commonly known as Madame de Pompadour. She died of tuberculosis before the construction finished. Le Petit Trianon was completed four years after Madame de Pompadour’s death. Later, Louis XVI, who succeeded the throne, gave Le Petit Trianon to Marie Antoinette, where she resided most of the time. She rebuilt and redecorated the place and gardens as she pleased.
Kellie’s Castle, Batu Gajah, Malaysia
William Kellie Smith, a Scottish businessman, moved to Malaysia with his wife, Agnes, in the early 1900s. There, he acquired a plantation and built a small wood home. But Agnes, who was pregnant at the time, didn’t like their small home and longed for the castle-like abode of their home country. So, he started the ambitious project of building this castle, which combines Moorish, Greco-Roman, and Indian architectural styles. Unfortunately, William Smith died of pneumonia in 1926, and the construction stopped. There was no mention of what happened to Agnes and their child, but the Malaysian government acquired the property much later.
Kodai-Ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan
The temple, Kodaiji-jushozenji Temple, is located in the Higashiyama District of Kyoto, at the foot of Higashiyama Ryozen Mountains. It was built in 1606 by Kita-No-Mandokoro in memory of her late husband and soul mate, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. She became a priestess in later years and stayed in the temple. She was renamed Kodaiin Kogetsuni. The Kodai-Ji Temple consists of the Kaisando (the Founder’s Hall), Shiguretei and Kasatei (teahouses), Kangetsudai (Moon Viewing Pavilion), Omotetmon (Gate to Sanctuary), and Otama-ya (Sanctuary), and a beautiful pond garden, which are all cultural properties of Japan. Both Kita-No-Mandokoro and Toyotomi Hideyoshi are in the Otama-ya.
PrasatHinPhimai Temple, Phimai, Thailand
This magnificent structure starts with the story of a man named Pajitt, whose father wanted him to get married. He searched the countryside but found no one else he liked except a pregnant widow whom he considered his life partner. But since he’s not allowed to marry a widow, he agreed to marry her child instead when she turns 16. As the child Orapima grew, Pajitt fell in love with her, and she with him. But one day, Pajitt was killed by a woodsman in a forest. In turn, Orapima killed the woodsman and returned to Phimai. There, she had the sanctuary, PrasatHinPhimai, built, where she wished for the reincarnation of Pajitt’s spirit. The place is filled with sculptures and paintings of her life with him.
Love is, indeed, a strange thing that could come anytime to anyone. No amount of matchmaking, swiping right, Zoom dating, or what-have-you can spark love or guarantee a happy-ever-after. But when you do find the one, are you ready to risk all for them? In other words, can you build monuments, too, like these brave lovers?