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Unnayi Warrier

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pioneer of Kathakali (1674-1759)

There are only sketchy details available regarding Unnayi Variyar's real name, exact date and place of birth, his family background and literary achievements. There is consensus among scholars that his family name was 'Akathoottu Warriam' and that he was a garland maker (traditional vocation of Warriers (Variar)) by profession at Irinjalakkuda Koodalmanikyam Temple. One tangible record available that throws light on his life and times is that his work Nalacharitham aattakatha - 2nd day was enacted during the festival season of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram(Trivandrum) in 1752 AD. This for certain proves that Nalacharitham was authored by Variyar during the first half of 18th century or earlier. There is speculation that Ramapurathu Warrier was a disciple of Unnayi Variyar and as noted by Prof. Aimanam Krishna Kaimal in his celebrated work "Attakkatha Sahityam" it is reasonable to assume Unnayi Variyar lived between 1674 and 1754 C.E. Also, Prof. Kaimal infers that Unnayi's real name was 'Raman'. He arrives at this conclusion by presenting evidence that last sloka of another of Unnayi's works - 'Girijakalyanam' aatakatha mentions the author's name to be 'Raman'. The pet name Unni Raman became Unnayi .