Manjamma Jogati - Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF)


In Kalkamba, a little village In Kurugodu Taluk of Bellary district, B Manjamma Jogati was born as a son to Shri Hanumantha Shetty and Jayalakshmi in 1957. Her creative journey began very early in childhood as she would join her father and take part in local plays. Her tryst with the woman within when in class seven hampered her educational pursuits. She completed her standard 10, amidst great emotional turmoil, torn between who she was and who she wished to be. When she could no longer take the humiliation by people around for displaying feminine traits, she decided to get initiated into the Jogati tradition. At the Shri Huligemma Devi Temple in Shri Kshetra Huligi, she took her vows and Manjunatha turned to Manjamma.

Her fate was the same as that of most Jogatis who, once initiated, resort to seeking alms for a living. Little had she known that once she chose to be who she had always wanted to be, life would completely be thrown out of gear. The pain, the humiliation, the exclusion, the indifference, the discrimination from both family and society forced her to leave home and settle in a little hamlet away from her own village.

1985 – Initiation to Jogati Tradition
She first learnt the Jogati dance from Mettikallu Basappa. She began to build her new life selling idlis in the mornings and taking tuition classes for children in the evenings. She then had the fortune of meeting Karnataka State Award recipient artist Kalavva from whom she learnt the art of Jogati dance. As part of her troupe, she performed various plays and gave thousands of performances in various parts of the state. Since 1986 to this day, she has performed at various platforms that include the Hampi Festival, the Dasara Festival, Alvas Nudisiri and so on across various cities, including Mumbai and Delhi among others. She has played various characters in different dance-drama performances, including the Lifestory of Renuka Devi. Some of her well-known plays are Shivarjuna Yudhdha, Gokarnada Gaudashyani and Girija Kalyana. She has to her name the credit of taking the Jogati Nritya from the streets to the stage. The art form that was once looked upon as a street performance seeking alms has been given its due respect and recognition as a valid creative pursuit.

She served as a member of the Karnataka Folk academy and in 2019 was chosen to head it. For the first time in India, a transgender person became the President of a state-run academy. Her Kannada life-story titled ‘Naduve Suliva Hennu’ was published in 2021and her Telugu life-story is called Jogini Manjamma.

Awards and Contribution
In 2021, she received the country’s fourth highest civilian award, the Padmashri. She is the first transgender folk artist in the country to receive this prestigious award. To ensure that no other transgender folk artists have to go through what she did, she has taken it upon herself to train and support those like her in her modest way. She has made an immense effort to promote the art by conducting various training camps and sessions to teach and train artists in Jogati Nritya. She has acted in various films, including Kengulabi, Dantha Purana, Amara Premi Arun, Kubusa and Shivaleela. Her interviews across various media channels, Akashvani and Doordarshan have had record numbers of viewers and listeners. She has also been the subject of various plays in different languages which have been performed across states hundreds of times by a variety of troupes. She is a wonderful orator and folklore expert and visits various corporate and educational institutions and women’s organisations as a motivational speaker.

The Padmashri Mata B Manjamma Jogati Trust is being established in 2022 for the welfare of Jogatis and to ensure the upkeep of the traditions, rituals and practices of the Jogati tradition. For her selfless service to the cause of social welfare and her contribution to the art form, she has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Sharana Basava University of Kalaburagi.