Unnai Allal

I have no recourse but you, O Mother who has created the whole world! You have made me dance  on this stage of the drama of the world, where one ports different guises. I can dance no more!  For your divine heart to find the compassion to think ‘enough dancing’ and let me have a rest, what recourse do I have but you?

If  I had been born with the gift for words, this is the poetry I would have written. If I had been born with a Voice, this is the song I would have sung. Lacking both, I listen again and again to this beautiful composition by Papanasam Sivan (1890-1973) and lose myself in this most comforting of ragas, Kalyani.

Kalyani (Sanskrit) means auspicious, bringing good-fortune, beautiful. An important part of Carnatic music, this raga has Middle-Eastern origins. There are hundreds of compositions in this raga which are often sung as elaborate numbers in concerts. So of course I have heard it many times from childhood and find great comfort in its familiarity. Yet with certain compositions, there is something special. A matter of resonance I think – like a tuning fork, Unnai Allal makes me resonate in exactly the same frequency. To know more about this raga, click here.

This is a very cleverly written piece of poetry. The words are simple (see footnote) but it manages to encompasses many of basic Hindu beliefs – Maya and rebirth (the drama/theatre of the world where one ports many guises), Bhakti, surrender (no recourse except you), monotheistic-polymorphic God (many named and all pervading), Jeevatma-Paramatma link (resides in one’s heart/soul),  Mukti (allow to stop dancing). An excellent prayer song. See footnote for lyrics.

To present this song, I urge you to watch this video (from 0:31) of a very young Sanjay Subrahmanyan. How brilliant is he!! This is a video which I always watch with a great deal of pleasure and with sadness because I long to be there, at that temple, listening to Kalyani in those ancient corridors. Is Kalyani sanctified by the earth on which it is sung? Or is the earth sanctified by the sound of Kalyani? Both…both..My Tamil blood craves the feel of those temple grounds.

And if you fall in love with the song, like I did, listen below to a more elaborate and simply superb rendition by Aruna Sairam. It is from her excellent album Unnai Allal which I am happy to recommend to you.

Alternate link : This is available on online music sites such as Spotify and Gaana.com

Footnote (Lyrics):

Language : Tamil

உன்னை அல்லால் வேறே கதி இல்லை அம்மா
உலகெல்லாம் ஈன்ற அன்னை (உன்னை அல்லால்)

என்னை ஒர் வேடமிட்டுலக நாடக அரங்கில் ஆட விட்டாய் ( வைத்தாய்?)
என்னால் இனி ஆட முடியாது
திருவுள்ளம் இறங்கி ஆடினது போதுமென்று ஓய்வளிக்க (உன்னை அல்லால்)

நீயே மீனாக்ஷி காமாக்ஷி நீலாயதாக்ஷி
என பல பெயருடன் எங்கும் நிறைந்தவள்
என் மனக் கோவிலிலும்  எழுந்தருளிய தாயே
திருமயிலை வளரும் (உன்னை அல்லால்)


unnai allAl vErE gati illai ammA
ulagellAm InDRa annai

ennai Or vEDamiTTulaga nAdaga arangil ADa  viTTAi (/vaiththai)
ennAl ini ADa muDiyAdu
tiruvuLLam irangi ADinadu pOdum enDRu OyvaLikka (unnai allAl)

nIyE mInAkshii kAmAkshi nIlAyatAkshi
ena pala peyaruDan engum niraindavaL
en manak kOvililum ezhundaruLiya tAyE
tirumayilai vaLarum (unnai allAl)


I have no (illai) recourse (vErE gati) but you (unnai allAl), O Mother (annai) who has created (InDRa) the whole world (ulagellAm)!

You have made (viTTai) me (ennai) dance (ADa) on this stage (arangil) of the drama (nAdaga) of the world (ulaga) where one ports (iTTu) different guises (veDam). I can (ennAl) dance (ADa) no more (ini muDiyAdu)!  For your divine heart (tiru uLLam) to find the compassion (irangi) to think ‘enough dancing’ (ADinadu pOdum ena) and let me have a rest (Oyvu aLikka), what recourse do I have but you?

You are indeed (nI dAn) present everywhere (engum niraidavaL) with many names (pala peyaruDan) such as (ena) Meenakshi, Kamakshi and Neelayadakshi. O Mother (tAyE) who has blessed me by residing (ezhudu aruLiya) even in the temple (kOvilum) of my heart (en mana)! O Mother who is in holy Mayilai (tiru mayilai), what recourse do I have but you?



Filed under Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Papanasam Sivan, Rama Varma, Sanjay Subrahmanyan

22 responses to “Unnai Allal

  1. Wonderful post about a beautiful raga. I completely agree with you about the charm of the raga and the beauty and depth in the lyrics, which all of us can relate to. Thanks for the post and the transcription.

    • Thank you Manju. This is a song I never tire of – I am glad you like it too.
      BTW I just popped into your site – oh yum! I will explore at my leisure 🙂

  2. V. Ramaswamy

    SAIRAM. GREETINGS. Cheers for this site. Excellent rendition. Thanks for this post. We listened to this on Adi Puram Day which is celebrated at Nagapattinam Neelayadakshi Amman temple gloriously. Being away and not to miss this festival, we celebrate this festival at home with the Deity’s pictured adored and playing all Devi Songs. Particularly this song by Papapanasam Sivan glorifies Ambal in the form of Kamakshi, Meenakshi and Neelayadakshi. We are all devoted to the Mata Neelayadakshi and I myself have written Tamil lyrics on the glory of Ambal Neelayadakshi and we have ourselves for Atma Tripti, have produced an Aklbum ten of these songs. If interested and if can post them in your site for the benefit of those devotees who wish to listen to them, I do not mind sending the MP3 version along with the lyrics and English translation thereof, on hearing from you.

  3. raji

    Hi, How wonderfully you have written!! I have listened to this song several times before. But, never I had experienced the kind of yawning for “Amman” until today. I was walking on the street in Seoul listening to this song, crying all the time while I was listening. Every word of this song is so true in my life. Probably, Amman’s Karunai is required to experience this song….. Before my last breadth, I want to learn and offer this song in front of Amman

    • Hi Raji, It is indeed a blessing when one can listen to a song, be touched by it and commune with God while listening to it. If you have been so blessed today, you are lucky indeed. I am happy that my post triggered you into listening to this song and offered you this wonderful experience. It is a good ambition to want to learn this song and sing it before your Goddess, may she bless you to succeed in this endeavour.
      Cheers. Suja

  4. Ravi

    Suja, I am late to this, but wanted to say a few words and recommend another version of this great Kriti.

    You say, “I listen again and again to this beautiful composition….” I do the same, for it is such an addictive song. I drive from Long Island, New York to Troy, New York where my son goes to college at least twice in a month, sometimes just to see him, sometimes on a work-related trip to Albany. Both on my way and back on the 3+ hour trip, I usually listen to Maharajapuram Santhanam’s version of this wonderful composition. If you so wish, you can see the Great Santhanam’s rendition here: If you do, Suja, I’ll certainly be interested in your take of Mr. Santhanam’s rendition.

    There are other versions of Santhanam’s renditions floating around on the Internet as well.

    Take care and stay well,
    – Ravi

    • Hi Ravi, Indeed Unnai Allal is very addictive; the beauty of Kalyani together with the strength of the words is a potent combination. Thank you for sending me the link to the videos. I liked it very much, though I confess that I am a long time fan of Mr.Santhanam’s voice and I am predisposed to liking anything he sings! I have another rendition by him which I listen to every now and then, but it was good to watch the video. As you know, one cannot really compare renditions, musicians or performances as they are all unique. That said, I like the energy that Aruna Sairam brings to this song; this is a strong piece of poetry and she brings out the power of every word. And then there are some excellent kalpana-swarams which follow like dessert after a feast 🙂 The accompaniment by Mr.Krishnaswami on the violin and Mr.Ganapathiraman on the Mridangam and Mr.Karthick is also excellent. I am of course biaised as I am very fond of this version 🙂
      Cheers. Suja

  5. Ravi

    Thank you for your take on Sri Santhanam, Suja. Glad to know you are a fan as well. His renditions of several Mohana raga kriitis (“Nannu Palimpa,” “Evarura,” “Mohana Rama,” among others) are IMHO unparalleled. But, as you say, whether it is due to predilection or analytical evaluation, we all have our favorites.

    As for Aruna Sairam, there has seldom been a time that I haven’t gotten goosebumps when I listened to her rendition of “Bhaktha Jana Vatsale.”
    (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link to the version that I have which runs 6:40 mins.) Many have sung that Abhang well and you had featured O.S. Arun’s version when you wrote about it . My admiration and respect for O.S. Arun notwithstanding, I’ll take Aruna Sairam’s version of that Abhang every time, for in my view no one’s performance of that song has surpassed her rendition.

    Good or bad, there is no accounting for taste, I suppose!

    Thanks, again.

    Take care and stay well,

  6. arunachalam

    Well written blog, can’t wait to listen to Sanjay’s rendition!

    • Thank you 🙂 I am sure you’ll enjoy Sanjay’s rendition, it’s rare to see a video of his from this period when he is so young. I enjoyed it very much. Cheers Suja



  8. srinin

    It is one of those inexpilcable things… Suddenly this song popped up in my mind and I wanted to listen to it. Google, Your blog. And I like what you have said about this song. Though I have heard it several times, your post invested new meanings and vibrant feelings into this song for me. Thank you so much. It is about three days since the urge came and it has not yet left me.
    So came back to hear the song once more. 🙂 I am nor sure how many more days this song will keep a hold on me but whatever that duration it will be ‘sukhanubhavam’ Thanks once again for reconnecting me to this soulful song in Kalyani.

    • Hello again! Like you I was quite addicted to the song when I wrote the post a few years back 🙂 I would listen again and again, and each time it sounded even more special !! Don’t you feel lucky when you ‘connect’ with music like that? Are we not the most fortunate of people to have an ear for CM? This too is a blessing, enjoy! I shall make a Kalyani playlist for my dinner-cooking-background-music this evening, starting with Unnai Allal – maybe I can capture the magic again 🙂
      Cheers. Suja

  9. Chitra

    Dear Suja,

    I found your post through Google. Im a big fan of this magical song by the great Papanasam Sivan but I hear it in Simhendramadhyamam by Unnikrishnan. And everytime it overwhlems me and Im brought to tears. Very very uplifting rendition. The depth of Simhendramadhyamam and the simple lyrics which are so easy to understand. Sheer magic!!
    But your eloquence really touched the soul of the song and Im thankful to have read it!! Stay blessed!
    If you have heard this version do let me know your thoughts!!

    • Hello Chitra, welcome to my blog! It is always a pleasure to meet fellow Carnatic Music lovers 🙂 I believe you may be referring to ‘Unnai Allal’ by Koteeswara Iyer in Simhendramadhyamam? I have heard this by various artists including one rendition by Unnikrishnan. I am very fond of Simhendramadhyamam so naturally I enjoy this kriti very much..I must think about writing a post on this, and I shall listen to various renditions again to decide which one I like best 🙂
      Cheers. Suja

  10. Suja ..I come back to your blog and remain transfixed. And yes I too cannot sing but this song is sone of my top favourites too. I came here seeking the lyrics and voila! ..you have given it. Thank you. And yes listening to such compositions I am transported in mind to the hallowed halls of those temples and long to visit them.

    • Ah, I am glad that the song speaks to you as it speaks to me! Kalyani is really gentle and beautiful isn’t it – in this composition, the beauty of the raga comes out so well!
      Cheers. Suja

  11. Dr.Sankar Vaidyanathan

    Absolutely blown by the simplicity and depth of the words in this song which soothes the soul. Evergreen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s