Rashtrapati Bhava recently hosted the esteemed personalities in the Durbar Hall who were conferred with the Padma Shri – India’s fourth-highest civilian award by President Ram Nath Kovind. Amongst them was Karnataka’s transgender classical dancer, Manjamma Jogathi, who received the Padma Shri Award for her contribution to folk dance on Tuesday. As her name was called, Manjamma, draped in a saree went up and in a unique gesture with the pallu of her saree towards President to wish him good luck before receiving the award, according to the popular beliefs and the video went viral.
Born Manjunatha Shetty in the Ballari district of Karnataka, she completed her education till the 10th standard. At the age of 15, when she started to identify herself as a woman and began behaving like a girl her parents took her to a temple in Hospet and got her to perform Jogappa – a ritual in which the devotees are believed to get married to a god or goddess. From then, Manjunath Shetty became Manjamma Jogathi and now was no longer allowed to return back home.
Manjamma’s resilient journey started with begging on the streets draped in a saree and she was also sexually abused. That was when she decided to kill herself, had it not been for a father-son duo who taught her to dance and gave a new start to her lone life. Manjamma was introduced to Kallava Jogathi and she learned a dance form known as the Jogathi Nrithyaa. After Kallava’s death, she took over the troupe, performed across the state, and made the dance form popular. Manjamma also became the first transgender president of Karnataka Jaanapada Academy, a body of the state government for performing arts.
In an interview with The Indian Express, Akkai Padmashali, a well-known Indian transgender activist, thanked the Government of India by saying, “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 the transgender community by honouring Manjamma.”