Manjamma Jogati- Transgender Folk Dancer Receives Padma Shri

Manjamma Jogati

India, home of hundreds of art and culture appreciate its diversity like no one else. Out of 30 folk dances performed in India is Jogati Nrirya. A dance form was performed by the Jogappas, a community of transgender people in north Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra to please goddess Yellama. It is a kind of ritual dance dedicated to the goddess. Manjamma Jogati has long been a proponent of Jogati Nritya and is the first trans-president of the Karnataka Janapada Academy, the state government’s top institution for folk art forms.

She has recently been honored with Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian honor of the country. As Manjamma’s name was called, she made her way to the president and then makes a gesture that many in social media said was to wish him luck. She made a sweeping gesture thrice up and down and then circled her hands on either side of the president. Her gesture had been applauded by the netizens and President seem to be touched by her gesticulation. Watch below-

As Manjamma Jogati creates history, let’s take a look at the struggles she faced as a transwoman

Originally named Manjunath Shetty, she was born in the Ballari district of Karnataka and hailed from a middle-class family. During her adolescence, especially when she was in class 10th, Manjamma started recognizing her as a woman. Her family upon identifying her feminine tendencies opposed her, hit her, and even cursed her. The torture went to such an extreme level, that Manjamma was forced to consume poison.

When her family took her to the hospital and later to the priest, who convinced them that she has been blessed by some divine power and thus needed to be left alone. Thus, when was 15 years old, her parents took her to Huligeyamma’s temple in Hospet for jogappa, a ritual in which devotees marry the god. Manjamma Jogati was married to Goddess Renuka Yellama. Once the devotee is married, he/she is not allowed to return home and be left alone.

Manjamma was forced to beg for alms to meet her end needs. The incident pushed her to extreme poverty and subject to physical abuse. the continuous struggle of life, social isolation, and sexual abuse forced her into depression and she was at the edge of taking her life before finally meeting Mattikal Basappa. Mattikal Basappa was a folk dancer who taught Manjamma- Jogati Nritya. Later she met Jogati performer Kalavva Jogati. Together, they both helped her get back on her feet.

Manjamma Jogati

She mastered art forms like Jogati Nritya, Janapada songs, and Kannada language sonnets. In 2006, she was awarded Karnataka Janapada Academy Award. Later, in 2019 after Kallava’s demise, Manjamma was appointed president of Karnataka Janapada Academy. Thus becoming the first trans woman to preside the state’s most prestigious body dedicated to performing arts.

In 2010, the Karnataka government honored Manjamma Jogati with the annual Kannada Rajyotsava award. On 9 November 2021, she was awarded the Padma Shri Award by President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, for her contribution to the Jogati Nritya dance form.

“I am not primarily an activist, I am first and foremost an artist. But now, at 63, I don’t see myself as someone with great ambition as a dancer, all that’s left for me is helping younger artists and society in general.” Manjamma Jogati says in an interview.

The President awarded seven Padma Vibhushan, 10 Padma Bhushan, and 102 Padma Shri awards for this year. The honour was also received by Lt Col Qazi Sajjad Ali Zahir, an ex-Pak soldier who helped India liberate Bangladesh, HC Verma, COVID Warrior Jitender Singh Shunty and Manjamma Jogati along with V Sindhu, Kangana Ranaut, Mary Kom, Karan Johar.  


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