Breaking barriers of gender biasVarsha Agarwal

Varsha Agarwal firmly believes that she was born to break barriers.

She proved this to be true when she stormed into the traditionally male-dominated sphere of Indian classical music and became the first Indian female classical solo santoor player to find popularity and recognition in shows across the globe.

In 2018, she won the 'First Lady of Santoor' award from the President of India & Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Today, Varsha is one of the few female santoor players from Kashmir's Sufiana repertoire and is also an accomplished tabla player.

However, the road to success was extremely challenging for her, and more so, because she was born to a conservative family in Jhalawar, Rajasthan.

"I come from a family of doctors, and while money was never a problem, freedom was. Growing up as a girl in my family meant limited opportunities other than marriage. However, I knew that marriage wasn't for me and declared the same to my parents in a letter, telling them that the santoor was my everything," recollects Varsha.

How did a young girl, growing up in a family full of doctors, develop a love for classical music?

"There is music in every corner of Jhalawar; it's where Pandit Ravi Shankar grew up. But, it was my grandfather, Dr Kalyanmal Agrawal, who introduced me to the wonderful world of music. He wanted me to learn, and if he met any patient who was a musician, he would request them to guide me," she mentions.

So, Varsha began her musical journey at the age of 5 with vocal training, and slowly graduated to tabla and santoor.

After years of hard work and discipline, she is counted among the top artists in India and has played the mellifluous musical instrument at All India Radio and Doordarshan, while also performing across 57 countries.

In addition to being a star santoor player, she is also a teacher with a PhD in music and hopes to take classical music to the masses, especially the youth.

"Any artist is forever hungry for appreciation, and I am no exception. So, as a classical music player, the opportunity to reach out to more people is a long-standing dream, but also a challenge," she shares.

Here, she adds that the gap is steadily being filled thanks to a recent revolution in the music world through shows organized by HCL Digital Concerts.

"From witnessing the organizers' passion for classical music to the high-quality post-production work, performing at HCL Digital Concerts was an extremely fulfilling experience," Varsha adds.

HCL Digital Concerts is a platform meant to identify aspiring musicians and provide them with opportunities to showcase their talent through digital as well as physical music concerts.

Varsha is an inspiration to young santoor players and classical musicians, especially women. In her parting message to everyone, she says, "You don't have to compete with anyone except yourself. Dedicate yourself to be the best version of you, and never forget your roots. Be humble and true to your art, and you will go places!"

Read More Stories

Excellence in performing arts is the consummation of years of rigorous application and expert training. The fusion of body and mind makes every expression of artistry truly world class. Just as HCL synergizes knowledge with endeavour to produce innovative solutions, HCL Concerts celebrates the sheer brilliance of human genius in the field of performing arts.