Social media was flooded with a video of a transgender greeting the President of India in a unique way. Matha B. Manjamma Jogathi was honored for her contribution to folk dance.
Her gesture, which is believed to be a good luck wish, and a warm smile won hearts at Rashtrapati Bhavan. She became the first-ever transwoman to receive a Padma Shri Award.
Who is Matha B. Manjamma Jogathi?
57-year-old Matha B. Manjamma Jogathi is an Indian Kannada theatre actress. She is an acclaimed singer and dancer of Jogti Nritya, a folk dance of North Kannada. She was the first trans president of the Karnataka Janapada Academy.
- Manjamma was born as Manjunatha Shetty in the Ballari district of Karnataka on April 18, 1964.
- She studied till the 10th standard.
- Manjamma began to identify as a woman at the age of 15. Her family took her to the Huligeyamma’s temple near Hospet to be initiated as a Jogappa — a community of transgenders that has dedicated themselves in the service of the fiery Goddess Renuka Yellamma. Jogappas are considered married to goddess. She was not allowed to return home.
- Manjamma spent most of her life struggling socially and financially. She started her journey begging on the streets.
- She was sexually abused and felt suicidal at a point too.
After all the hard times, then comes a life-changing moment when she met a father-son duo who taught her dance. She met Kallava Jogathi and learned the dance form Jogathi Nrithya (a folk performance of Jogappas). After Kallava’s death, she carried on the legacy.
Manjamma became the first transgender president of Karnataka Jaanapada Academy, a government body for performing arts in Karnataka, in 2019.
Her life story is added in Karnataka Folklore University and Karnataka State Women’s University syllabus for Bachelor of Arts’ students.
- Rajyotsava Award by Karnataka government in 2010
- Padma Shri award by Government of India in 2021
Constitutional Values Above Belief System: Transgender Activist Akkai Padmashali
Transgender Activist Akkai Padmashali remarked, “As far as Manjamma’s award is concerned, I am equally happy as she is representing the entire community. I, and on behalf of the community, thank the Government of India which has considered the contribution of transgender community by honouring Manjamma.”
“There are already a lot of myths and misconception prevailing in society about the transgender community and when she is at the forum, getting honoured by the first citizen of the country (president), she should not have done it. The constitutional values are above the belief system, immaterial of whether one believes in the rituals or not. If society respects only the cultural status, where is our social, economic, political and human rights status?” added Akkai.