4. ‘Ella Arumaigalum’ – ‘My all-knowing and all-seeing Lord’

Song in the construction of tamil South Indian history and identity

4. ‘Ella Arumaigalum’ - ‘My all-knowing and all-seeing Lord’


In ‘Ella Arumaigalum’, we are introduced to a padam for which the hero is a known human patron, not a deity. The heroine begins the song by lamenting that her Lord’s mind has been poisoned against her by one of her rivals. In the anupallavi the nayaka is identified as Pratapa Rama Rajan, the knowledgeable, generous and gracious son of the renowned king Amarasimhendran (Amar Singh). In contrast to the grand picture of the patron drawn in the song, historically Amar Singh was a minor ruler for a brief moment in the waning days of the Tanjavur kingdom. When he was named regent to the ten year old Raja-designate in 1787, the British imposed a new treaty on Tanjavur specifying that the Kingdom had to pay the British 2/5 of all revenues in peacetime and 4/5 of revenues in time of war. In effect the British had assumed control of the kingdom by 1800, though they did not officially terminate the royal line of Tanjavur until 1855. After a series of internecine quarrels Amar Singh’s regency was ended and he was pensioned off to the town of Tiruvidaimarudur where he was allowed to hold a small court and dispense patronage, but without holding political power. Amar Singh and his son Pratapa Rama Rajan both patronized the composer of Ella Arumaigalum, Ghanam Krishna Ayyar (Allen 1992:73).


The Sacred and the Secular: a “Godly King” and a “Kingly God”

The fact that either a deity or a human king can be considered appropriate subjects for the romantic padam genre, is a good illustration of the articulation between the sacred and secular, the pious and the royal, in South Indian history. In literature gods are often described as kingly in their dress, comportment, and dignity, while kings are often described as godly in their piety and their sense of duty when it came to acts of devotion such as building or maintaining temples (many examples are described in Shulman 1980). In this song, Pratapa Rama Rajan is lauded for knowing all precious and rare things, for giving magnificent gifts, doing everything in an ego-less and unselfish manner, for never (up until the present estrangement) uttering a harsh word. For reasons the nayaki struggles to understand, he has strayed and now she sees no way that their relationship can be restored. Portraying complex emotional situations was one of the fortés of devadasi dancers - the heroine laments “God has written this on my head, this is the way it must be”, once again praising his piousness and devotion even in the midst of his desertion.


A Female Musician’s Difficult Career Choices

The singer on this recording is Ms. M.S. Subbulakshmi, the most famous and beloved singer of South India in the twentieth century. Her life story reveals the difficult professional choices which women musicians of devadasi background had to confront. Subbulakshmi’s mother Madurai Shanmuga Vadivoo (Shanmugavadivu) was a devadasi singer and player of the vina, who recorded several 78RPM records. Subbulakshmi began her professional career early and by the time she was in her teens, was a popular recording artist. At that stage in her career, she recorded many padams from the devadasi repertoire. She married a man of the Brahmin caste, who took an active interest in her career, and within a short period of time she made the decision to no longer perform or record the romantic padams or other genres affiliated with devadasi heritage. For the remainder of her long and illustrious career she only sang pieces whose mode of devotion chastely and studiously avoided the sensual themes typical of padams, and in addition went to great lengths to obscure the fact that she had come from a devadasi lineage.


Song 4. ‘Ella Arumaigalum’ - ‘My all-knowing Lord’
Composer: Ghanam Krishna Ayyar (ca. 1790-1854)
Raga: Todi
Tala: Adi.
Sung by M.S. Subbulakshmi, late 1930s


Ella arumaigalum ella perumaigalum
To my all-knowing and all-seeing lord -
Ellam terinda duraikku eval bodanai seydalo?
Which woman instigated his mind against me?

Pallakku sakalamum bakkiyamum tan koduttu
He himself gives all magnificent gifts, palanquins, all wealth
Panbu udane panividai seytu vaikkum lolar adi
In the proper and correct way he accomplishes it, this gracious man
Nalla kiridam taritta Amarasimhendiran
To Amarasimhendran who wears the beautiful crown
Nadan aruliya Pratapa Ramarajanukku
Pratapa Rama Rajan was born, with Siva’s blessings

Kanganam kattina nal mudale idu varaiyil
From the day we pledged our love to each other up to the present day
Kadintu oru varttai sonnadu ariyen, adi
I never knew one angry word from him, friend
Enge irundalum avarai ninaintu uruka
Wherever he is, I melt thinking of him
En talaiyil Isan erudinar, adi
God has written on my head – this is the way it must be, friend
En kanavarukku inai undo? Rajadirajan
Is there any equal to my royal lover, the King of Kings?
Edir kontu vantu ninru kappamum katti
Many come standing before him, deferentially offering tribute
Punga mamaka mandapamum katti vaikkum lolan adi
Does a person exist who builds such great mandapams as he?
Punniyavan ivar tan adi, enninapadi mudiyum
He is a great man, friend; may things turn out as I wish.



1. Maraintu Iruntu - What is the Secret?
2. Inimel Avarkkum - From Now On
3. Kaiyil Panam Illamal - Without Money in Hand
4. Ella Arumaigalum - My all-knowing all-seeing Lord
5. Pazham Ni Appa - You are the Fruit
6. Nadamadi Tirinda - You Used to Get About Quite Well
7. Ethukkittanai Modi Tan - Why This Love Quarrel?

8. En Palli Kondir - Why are You Stretched Out on the Ground?
9. Jagajjanani - Mother of the Universe

10. Taye Yasoda - Oh Mother Yasoda
11. Vazhi Maraittu - My View is Obstructed
Musical examples


By Matthew Allen

© Médiathèque Caraïbe / Conseil Départemental de la Guadeloupe,  2016-2020