On Saturday, the External Affairs Minister of India handed over part of Queen Ketevan's, Queen of Kakheti- a kingdom in eastern Georgia, relics to its government. The Queen has returned to her home country after 400 years for her remains laid hidden in Goa until 2005. This emotional ceremony was conducted in the capital city- Tbilisi, in the presence of His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia and Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili.
A display of friendly relations
The return of a holy treasure from India to Georgia is a display of good diplomatic relations that these two countries share. Apart from this, it also signifies the mutual respect these countries share for each other's religions, culture and beliefs. This decision by both governments is also expected to boost the tourism of the respective nations.
Reports quote that at the handing over ceremony, the Indian Minister said- "The presence of some of the relics in India and Georgia is a bridge of faith between our two countries. I hope that in the coming years, the people of both of our nations will traverse that bridge of spirituality as much as of friendship," he said.
Story behind the discovery
It is believed that in 1627, three years after Queen Ketevan died, Portuguese missionaries carried her remains to Goa. However, the relic was termed 'lost' until years of study of medieval Portuguese records directed researchers towards the St. Augustine Church in Old Goa.
Finally found in 2005, it has been returned to Georgia in 2021, after ASI carried out extensive DNA analysis at Hyderabad's CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, to confirm the identity and authenticity of the remains. Previously, in 2017, the Indian government sent this relic to Georgia for a display that was held for 6 months, however, the loan was extended beyond the requested time frame and the relic returned to India on 30 September 2018.
Story of Queen Ketevan
Marking the culmination of years of diplomatic efforts, Queen Ketevan has finally been taken to her final resting place- Georgia. Her story goes back to the year 1624 when she was tortured and killed in Shiraz, during the rule of Iran's Safavid Dynasty, for she refused to convert from Christianity to Islam. Her remains were carried to India by two devoted Augustinian monks who had witnessed her life during her last years on Earth. The martyrdom of Queen Ketevan, also known as Ketevan the Martyr and St. Ketevan, still inspires courage and sacrifice.