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Panicker (sometimes Panikkar) is an Indian title or last name used by members of various communities in the state of Kerala. The Kaniyar community of Kerala, particularly central and northern region, by virtue of their past traditional occupation as teachers of a martial art (Kalari) are commonly known as Panicker. Some members of the Nair and Ezhava castes in the Hindu religion and also some Christians from the Syrian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox and Mar Thoma churches also hold this last name.


The word Panicker was derived from the Sanskrit word Parinayaka meaning 'captain of warriors'. It was a title bestowed on Kalari masters in Kerala, who were known as the Kalari Panicker. They were traditional astrologer caste men of Kerala, particularly from the central region of the state.[citation needed] The Dravidian Etymological Dictionary, entry number 3884, considers the word Panikkan as a word of Dravidian etymology, deriving from the Dravidian root word Pani, meaning service, work etc. Panikkan could mean a person who commands as well as one who serves. The DED traces cognates of the word Panikkan in twelve Dravidian languages, besides Malayalam.[citation needed]

The Portuguese traveller Duarte Barbosa said that "They are the skillful men who teach this art [Kalarippayattu], and they are called the Panickers: these are the captains in war."[1]


Following the current conventions for Romanising Malayalam without diacritic marks, the name would be "Panikkar". However, Panikker, Panicker, Panickar, Paniker, Panikar, Panniker, Pannikavannar and possibly other variants are to be found.[citation needed]

Notable people


  1. Lord Egerton of Tatton (2002). Indian and Oriental Arms and Armour. Courier Dover Publications. p. 80.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>