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For the 1989 film, see Unni (1989 film). For the 2007 film, see Unni (2007 film).

Unni is used as a first name in Kerala, India. In the Malayalam language, it is also used as an adjective meaning an infant boy. Thus, Unnikrishnan means Lord Krishna in the infant form and Unniyesu means Yesu (Jesus in Malayalam) in the infant form. The word is also the name of a caste among Hindus in the Southern India State of Kerala.

Unni is a sub-group of Pushpaka Brahmin, which comes under the Pancha-Dravida regional group of Brahmins. They belong to the Viswamitra Gotram. They wear the sacred thread "Yajñopavītam" (Pūnūl) and adhere to the 'Gayatri mantra'. They follow makkattayam (patrilineal) heritage system.

Origin, Etymology and History[edit]

It is believed that Unnis are the successors of the brahmins brought to Vaikom Thrikkovil by Lord Parasurama.

In the early days they were a group of brahmins who provided "immediate assistance" to the main priests in the temples. They assisted the main priest by gathering flowers, leaves and water, making garlends, lightening the lamps (Vilakku), and in preparing and distributing temple materials. They also served as teachers in Pāṭhaśālas associated with temples and as managers of different activities in temples.

Since they entered in their career at an early age (of about 16 or 20), soon after their formal education, generally they were very much younger than the main priest. So the main priest used to call his assistants by the name Unni (meaning 'Young Boy') or by suffixing the name Unni with their actual name. Gradually this name became the surname of this group of Pushpaka Brahmins.

There is a common belief that Unnis are sub-divided into Pushpaka, Tiyattunnis, Pattarunni etc. which is actually absurd. In fact these are entirely different communities in a common class of Kerala Brahmins and there were no inter caste marriages among these communities anciently. Tīyāttunnis were traditionally the performers of an ancient art form called Tīyāttu. The famous Malayalam writer Kottarathil Sankunni was a Tīyāttunni whereas famous essayist D. Padmanabhanunni was a Pushpakanunni. Some of the tiyattunnis are known as Sharma. Theeyattunnis have the right for Tantric Poojas and other privileges enjoyed by the Nambudiri caste.

Prominent Unnis[edit]

From Kerala

  • Maj Sandeep Unnikrishnan, 7 Bihar, NSG Commando, Martyr of 26/11 attacks on Mumbai
  • Unni Mukundan(born 1987), Indian actor of Malayalam film.
  • Unnikrishnan Santhosh, Senior Software Developer at Hello Infinity Business Solution Pvt Ltd
  • Unnikrishnan p v, civil engineer at seguro foundations & structures Pvt Ltd
  • Unnimoyi, Jaal Unnikka.
  • Unni S Raj, Oracle BRM Consultant.
  • E. P. Unni, Indian political cartoonist.
  • Kottarathil Sankunni- Famous Malayalam writer; Writer of Aithihyamala and many other works
  • K. S. Neelakantan Unni (1895–1980), Sanskrit scholar, compiled many legends about temples, famous persons, etc. and translated Kalidasa's Shakuntalam to Malayalam
  • S. Damodaran Unni - Performer of Bhadrakali Tīyāttu, author of the monograph Tiyyattunnikal
  • Divya Unni (born 1981), Indian actress of Malayalam and Tamil films
  • P. Unni Krishnan, (born 1966), Carnatic vocalist and playback singer.
  • Unni Krishnan Karunakara (born 1964), International President, Médecins Sans Frontières
  • Unni Warrier, co-founder, and former president, chairman, and CEO of CyberMedia
  • Unni, a MAlayalam film released in 1989
  • Unni, a Malayalam film released in 2007

See also[edit]


  • Tiyyatunnikal by S Damodaran Unni