The name Finland is of uncertain origin. Many theories have been forwarded. The endonyms for Finland are ‘Suomi’ and ‘Häme’ and are said to have originated from a neutral expression like ‘land’ which in turn is traced to the Proto-Baltic ‘zeme’, meaning ‘land’. But Proto-Baltic is an engineered language – and the form in which it existed is unknown. A close cognate of ‘Suomi’, Hame and the Proto-Baltic ‘zeme’ with the same meaning, that is, ‘land’ is the Sanskrit ‘bhumi’ (भूमि), also the source word for the Persian/Avasthan ‘zamin’. 

There are many ethnonyms for the Finn community. Some are geographical, like the word ‘Suomi’ meaning land which as mentioned above can be traced to Sanskrit ‘bhumi’. Another name for Finland is ‘Karjala’. It is interesting that in Sanskrit ‘KarjAla’ (करजाल) means ‘streams of light’ which may be a reference to the ‘northern lights’ or ‘auroras’ visible in Finland. 

Northern Lights or Aurora in Finland
An ethnonym for Finland is ‘Karjala’.
‘Karjala ‘ means ‘Stream of Light’ in Sanskrit

Yet another ethnonym for the Finns is ‘Viro’- though ‘vira’ (वीर) in Sanskrit means ‘brave man’, ‘husband’ or ‘heroic’ and is a closer cognate to ‘Viro’, it is ‘virok’ (विरोक) which means ‘ray of light’ that describes the auroras of Finland. 

There are other ethnonyms which are close cognates of Sanskrit words with valid meanings, but ‘Karjala’ and ‘Virok’ stand out because they point to the ‘northern lights’, a phenomenon unique to this part of the world.

Researchers say that the ethnonym ‘Viro’ is somehow linked to the word ‘man’, and have suggested that ‘viro’ may be a corruption of ‘homme’ since ‘homme’ means ‘man’. But in that case, once again the Sanskrit ‘vira’ (वीर) which means ‘man’, particularly ‘brave man’ and a common name for men in the Indian Vedic scriptures, fits in much better.

Other names for the Finns include ‘Vatja’. Here too there is a Sanskrit connection for ‘vataja’ (वातज) means ‘air’. Yet another ethnonym for Finns is ‘gaunija’, in Sanskrit ‘gaungika'(गौञ्जिक) means ‘jeweller’, and so on.

It is interesting to note that some exonyms for the Finns, including the Estonian ‘Marahvas’, are also valid Sanskrit words* . ‘Marahva’ (मारव) means ‘related to wilderness’ which may be a description of the geography of the ancient Finn region, but it is ‘Mairava’ (मैरव) which is more interesting, because it means ‘related to Mt. Meru’. ‘Meru’ is the mythological ‘Golden Mountain’ whose name appears in Indian Vedic texts, in the name ‘Sumer’ (of Sumerian civilization) and in the folklore of Peru. One of the theories is that ‘Mt. Meru’ is located at the North Pole.

It has also been suggested that the original meaning for ‘Finne’ may be ‘wanderer’, an explanation describing the way of life of the people in Finland. Researchers are of the view that the stem ‘finne’ may originate from the same word as the German ‘vende’ which means ‘wanderer’. That itself is a cognate of the Sanskrit ‘vanch’ (वञ्च्) meaning ‘to go astray’ or ‘wander’.

As an aside, a quote from Col James Tod’s book ‘Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan’. Col James Tod was an employee of the East India Company in the last quarter of the 18th century. He researched the ancient chronicles of Rajasthan to which he was given access by the rulers of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, India. He found in the ancient chronicles of Rajasthan chapters of the forgotten history of India. Tod wrote, “The Samoyedes and Tchoudes of Siberia and Finland were originally known as the Shyama-yadus and the Joudes of India – a reference to the Yadhu tribe of Sri Krishna. The languages of the two former races have a strong affinity and are classed as Indo-Germanic by Remu Klaproth, the author of the book ‘Asia Polyglotta’.”

Prior to Col. James Todd, researcher Remu Klaproth had traced the Samoyedes and Tchoudes tribes to Central Asia, where the Yadhu dynasty had long held sway. Lord Krishna, who was also known as ‘Shyama’ was the most prominent figure of the Yadhu tribe of India. The later generations  of His family were known as the ‘Shyama Yadus’ who are  the same as the Samoyedes of Siberia. The Tchoudes of Finland is the same tribe as the Yadhus of India.

Suggested Links: 

Etymology of Finn Ethnonyms


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