India found relics of Georgian queen 400 years after her murder. PM shares tale

India had sent the holy relics to Georgia in 2017 for a period of six months to celebrate the 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. On July 9, earlier this month, the relics were permanently handed over to the Government of Georgia by external affairs minister S Jaishankar.
A key icon for the Georgian people, Ketavan inspired a new-age holy grail hunt among followers of the faith. Goa, here in India, was one of the chief locations. (Church of St Augustine / Francesco Bandarin )
A key icon for the Georgian people, Ketavan inspired a new-age holy grail hunt among followers of the faith. Goa, here in India, was one of the chief locations. (Church of St Augustine / Francesco Bandarin )
Published on Jul 25, 2021 01:23 PM IST
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Written by Joydeep Bose | Edited by Meenakshi Ray, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday shared how Indian researchers in 2005 uncovered the relics of a 16th-century Georgian queen, Ketevan the Martyr, from the Saint Augustine Church in Goa. "India handed over the holy relic or icon of Saint Queen Ketevan to the Government of Georgia and the people there," the Prime Minister said while addressing the nation through the Mann Ki Baat monthly radio programme.

India sent the holy relics to Georgia in 2017 for a period of six months to celebrate the 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. On July 9 this year, the relics were permanently handed over to Georgia by external affairs minister S Jaishankar.

"The words that were said in praise of India in this ceremony are indeed very memorable," the Prime Minister said on Sunday, lauding the strong diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Ketevan, the queen of Kakheti, a kingdom in eastern Georgia, was murdered at Shiraz in Iran in 1624, nearly 400 years ago now. Queen Ketevan earned the title of 'martyr' because it is believed she gave up her life defending the Christian faith and refused to convert to Islam, even after prolonged tortures by the Safavid suzerains. After her death, Ketevan was canonised as a saint by the Georgian Orthodox Church.

A key icon for the Georgian people, Ketavan inspired a new-age holy grail search, where followers of the faith went on a "hunt" for the queen's holy relics across the world. Goa was one of the chief locations where Georgian delegations would often frequent, trying to interpret centuries-old Portuguese documents that provided clues to Ketevan's burial place.

In a series of searches between 2004 to 2005, a group of Indian archaeologists, accompanied by a Portuguese architect, uncovered a number of relics and bone fragments that were confirmed to be of Georgian descent on a DNA test. Additional tests confirmed that the U1b bone came from a woman. So, in 2013, it was established that the bone found in two pieces in 2005 was consistent with being from a Georgian woman.

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Thursday, December 09, 2021