Gurus were reluctant to teach women ghatam: Sukkanya

The 62-year-old ghatam player says that she was able to reach heights in her career because of the encouragement from her family.
Last Updated 27 March 2019, 21:07 IST

Sukkanya Ramgopal, one among the very few women ghatam players in the country, began her musical journey at the age of 12, and with
the mridangam. She eventually learned to play the ghatam under the guidance of masteros Harihara Sharma and his son, Vikku Vinayakram.

She has accompanied several senior Carnatic musicians like M Balamuralikrishna, T S Sathyavathi, Vedavalli, and M S Sheela. She recently completed 26 years in music.

In a candid chat with Rakshitha M N, Sukkanya shares her thoughts on the challenges of women percussionists.

How did you discover your passion for the ghatam?

I never understood what got me interested, but I think that is the best part. I just knew that there was something that attracted me to it, and I instantly took to it. Being one of the first women ghatam players, I can’t say I had many resources back then. But I think I was lucky enough eventually to be taught by the best gurus.

Were you ever discouraged or rejected because you were a woman?

Yes. In fact, when I initially approached my guru to teach me the ghatam, he declined, saying the instrument was not meant to be in a woman’s hands. It is difficult for even men, he said. But, I didn’t give up. Because of my persistence, Harihara Sharma decided to teach me the basics and that is how it all started. The practice sessions were intense, but I am glad I stuck to it.

What have you done, over the years, to fight gender discrimination?

I came up with ‘The Ghata Tharang’ (six ghatams of different musical notes creating a melody), a first-of-its-kind concept where a percussion instrument occupies centre stage in a Carnatic concert.

Also, with ‘Sthree Thaal Tharang’, an all-women’s instrumental ensemble, we have been able to discover fresh talent. We have also performed in various countries such as Switzerland, Denmark, China, Singapore, and UAE.

Do you see more women interested in playing the ghatam now?

I think the times have change with a lot more women coming into the field. But they are somewhere still lost in a male-dominated society. Since the ghatam is an accompanying instrument, their growth depends on how often they are offered concerts by the lead artistes.

How did your family react to your career choice?

As we all know, women weren’t encouraged to pursue their dreams in those days. But I was lucky enough to have received that support. Though my father was a little uncomfortable with me learning the ghatam, he was not against it. My family’s encouragement and support played an important role in what I am today. I am also receiving the same support from my husband, and I have had no problems after marriage either.

Any advice to up-and-coming artistes?

Do not give up. With determination and perseverance, you can achieve anything in life. Set a goal and work towards it like there’s no tomorrow.

Meet her here

Sahitya Sanje - Sukkanya and her team present a ghatam concert at an event titled ‘Keluva Pari’ (The Way to Listen).

When: March 30

Where: Suchitra Cinema & Cultural Academy, No 36, B V Karanth Road, Banashankari
Time: 5.30 pm


Those interested in learning the ghatam can contact Sukkanya Ramgopal on 98455 24280. Website:

(Published 27 March 2019, 14:26 IST)

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