Foreign Minister S Jaishankar during his official two-day visit to Georgia handed over the holy relic of St. Queen Ketevan to the Georgian government at a ceremony, the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement. His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II, Catholicos and Patriarch of All Georgia, and the Georgian Prime Minister HE Irakli Garibashvili were present at the event.
St. Queen Ketevan was a 17th century Georgian Queen who attained martyrdom. Her relics were found in 2005 at the St. Augustine Convent in Old Goa, on the basis of medieval Portuguese records.
They are believed to have been brought to Goa in 1627 and interred in St. Augustine Complex. At the instance of the Archaeological Survey of India, the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, carried out DNA analysis that confirmed its authenticity.
In 2017, at the request of the Georgian government, India sent the relics to Georgia for an exhibition for six months. The relics were personally greeted by His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II, the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia along with many Georgians in September 2017.
This loan of the relics was extended for another six months and was returned to India in September 2018. The holy relics spent the year travelling to different churches of Georgia.
"Considering the persistent request from the Georgian side for permanent transfer of the holy relics and also taking into account the historical, religious and spiritual sentiments that are attached to the St. Queen Ketevan by the Georgian people, India has decided to gift one part of the holy relics to the government and people of Georgia. This will strengthen the bonds of friendship and understanding between India and Georgia," the Foreign Ministry said.