After persistent requests from the Georgian government, India has finally handed over a part of the holy relics of 17th century Georgian Queen St Ketevan.
External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II and the Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili were present on the occasion.
Jaishankar is on a two-day visit to Georgia, a strategically important country situated at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. He is visiting the country at the invitation of the Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Georgia David Zalkaliani.
The 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, a source in the government establishment said.
“Warmly welcomed in Tbilisi by Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani. Blessed to hand over the holy relics of St Queen Ketevan to the people of Georgia. An emotional moment,” Jaishankar said in a tweet.
In 2017, India had sent the relics to Georgia for an exhibition for six months after they made a request to the Indian government.
“The Relics were personally greeted by His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II, the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia along with many Georgians on 23 September 2017,” sources said.
This loan of Relics was extended for another six months and was returned to India on 30 September 2018. The Holy Relics spent the year travelling to different Churches of Georgia, they added.
Considering the persistent request from the Georgian side for the permanent transfer of the relics and taking into account the historical, religious and spiritual sentiments attached to it by the Georgian people, New Delhi decided to gift one part of the relics to Georgia, the sources said.
“This will strengthen the bonds of friendship and understanding between India and Georgia,” an official said.
During his visit, the minister will inaugurate the newly installed statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Tbilisi.