Indian myth abounds with love stories. From sensual tales of longing, loss and sacrifice, to ecstasy, family and happy endings, our stories have it all. Love is the theme around which many of our most important myths revolve.

On Valentine’s Day, we bring you some of the most fearless and inspiring romantic heroines from Indian myth and literature.

Shakuntala

Shakuntala’s story first appeared in the Mahabharata. King Dushyant fell in love with a hermit’s daughter, Shakuntala, during a hunting trip.

Dushyant has to leave, but gives her his ring with a royal signet, saying he will send for her. However, she is cursed by a sage who had stopped by her house, and who she had ignored because she was too lost in Dushyant’s thoughts. The sage said that whoever she was thinking about won’t remember her, unless she produces a significant souvenir. However, on her way to meet the king, Shakuntala loses the ring and Dushyant doesn’t recognise her. Luckily, a fisherman finds the ring in the gut of a fish. Shakuntala forgives the king, and gives birth to their son, Bharat.

Anarkali

Prince Salim, later known as Jahangir, falls in love with a courtesan at the palace, Anarkali. However, Akbar forbids their relationship, as a result of which Salim declares war against him. After losing the battle, Salim is sentenced to death. But Anarkali makes the ultimate sacrifice. He has to watch her being entombed alive after she renounces her love for him.

Damayanti

The story appears in the Mahabharata. Nala is the king of Nishada and Damayanti is the daughter of the ruler of Vidarbha. The two get married, but what follows isn’t a happy ending. Nala is addicted to gambling and loses everything because of this. Damayanti  refuses to leave him. But Kali lures Nala away from him. However, her faith is unshaken and the two are reunited in the end.

Radha

One half of one of the greatest legends of all times, Radha is Krishna’s favourite amongst all the gopis. Radha’s love for Krishna is so great that the two names are often uttered together. Though they never married, their pairing is considered the epitome of divine love.

Savitri

Princess Savitri comes across Prince Satyavan, the son of a destitute king, who lives in a small hut in the forest. She falls in love with his generous personality. However, her prominent father isn’t happy with the marriage. The saint Narada Muni informs them that the man will die within a year. Savitri goes ahead anyway. One year after their marriage, Yama appears before Savitri and takes her husband away. She runs after him, begging Yama to take her too. Yama refuses, but says that he will grant her any boon she wishes. She says she wants sons, and Yama agrees. She then asks how she can have sons without a husband. Yama has to give in, and she gets her husband back.

Also Read: This Festive Season, Reimagining Indian Goddesses

Anuja Chandramouli on Mythology and The Divine Feminine