There is a legend about the origins of Guria.
‘Once upon a time, there lived a king in India called Shedat who was so conceited and arrogant as to think that he deserved to have his own Eden garden in which people would worship him as God. He built a magnificent garden that closely resembled the biblical Eden, except for one thing: there were no angels in it. “There is no paradise without angels!”, the king’s subjects called out in a trembling voice. The king summoned his servants immediately and told them to go looking for gurias (“guria” meant “beautiful” in the language spoken in his realm) all around the world. The king wanted to bring gurias together and invite them into his garden of delight. The servants obeyed the king’s order and went looking for gurias all over the world. Once they found them, they set off to India. On arriving in the Caucasus Mountains, they found out that the king had passed away. On hearing this news, gurias decided to settle down in the magnificent mountains of the Caucasus rather than travel to India. Enchanted by the beauty of their surroundings, they decided to spend the rest of their lives in Guria.’
There is another story about the origins of Guria that is worth sharing: ‘There once lived a prince surrounded by noblemen. One day, he was engaged in a conversation with his subjects during which someone asked ‘Why is our land called Guria?’. To which, one of the nobles responded: “In the glory days of the Kingdom of Georgia, which stretched from the Caspian Sea in the east to Trabzon in the west, Guria was considered the heart of our beautiful homeland (the word “Guri” means “heart” in Megrelian)”.’
The first reference to Guria as a separate province dates back to the second half of the 7th century. This land has been known by this name ever since. The first historical mention of the local Gurieli princes dates back to the 14th century, the reign of Queen Rusudan. Gurieli was a noble family who ruled over Guria for a long time.
The first member of the Gurieli of historical importance was Kakhaber who, according to Georgian chronicles, died in 1483. The chroniclers described Kakhaber as a member of the Vardanisdze family. This family ruled over the principality of Svaneti Eristaviya (Eristaviya – a large feudal principality in medieval Georgia) since the reign of Queen Tamar. During the reign of King Giorgi (George) V the Magnificent in the 14th century, Guria passed into the hands of Kakhaber.
The last Prince of Guria was Mamia V Gurieli.
The main residence of the Gurieli family was in Ozurgeti and their family crypt – in the Church of Transfiguration in the village of Shemokmedi.