A vanguard for Jogathis

A vanguard for Jogathis

Manjamma Jogathi has been the face of the Jogathi folk culture and her biography turns over a new leaf in Kannada queer literature, writes Shilok Mukkati

Ten years ago I was devastated and told Arun to publish this book after I die. But seeing the biography taking shape, I feel the wait has been worth it. My wish has finally come true. The cover page of my biography — Naduve Suliva Hennu (Woman who emerges in between) brings immense joy to me, says Manjamma Jogathi, a renowned practitioner of Jogathi Nrithya and the first transgender Chairperson of Karnataka Janapada Academy. The book, which is going to be one of the revolutionary tools in Kannada queer literature, will soon be published by Dr Arun Joladkudlige, a folklore researcher and scholar. 

Revolutionary Jogathis

Tracing the origins of the Jogathis, Arun elaborates on how a temple located in Savadatti, Belagavi district is rich with mythological folklore of Goddess Yellamma. Savadatti Yellamma is one of the Shakthi Peethas. The keepers of this mythology are the Devadasis and the Jogathis (transgender women). They were the learned scholars and had a place in society. Over the years these communities were marginalised by society. Interestingly, these communities carry the nature of duality of submissiveness and un-obsequiousness towards patriarchy. As much as they have been victims of suppression, they have also been revolutionary in their propaganda to address patriarchy.

Yellammanatta, Padlige, Chowdki folk performance tools have been a social shelter for decades to transgender women in North Karnataka.

Arun’s work on Manjamma’s biography brings the Shantha Cult and other cultural experiences associated with it to the fore. Shantha Cult is a base of fertility pantheons, it raises the matriarchal approach of the society.

As Arun puts it, “There is a variety in trans literature from person to person. The experience of a transition coming from an elite background is different from a Dalit background. It is important to have that variety of caste, class and cultural diversity to enrich the readers’ knowledge on gender identity. While Living Smile Vidya, Revathi’s autobiography or Chandani Gagan’s anthology highlights the Mumbai-based Hijra Cult, I have tried to focus on the Shantha Cult. The biography begins with a personal experience of Manjamma and eventually offers a collective perspective of North Karnataka’s Jogathi community traditions.”

Queer literature

When I ask Arun about the necessity to create a new language for queer literature in Kannada, he says, “There is a need to analyse the presence and absence of queer identities in literature and how it addresses the non-binary genders, whether it has a positive or negative tone, how it has been able to condition the society. There is a need for bringing this material to our educational institutions.”

(The author is a performer, poet & a feminist activist who has left her mark with her art, poetry, LGBTQIA+ talks and feminism ideologies. This column will share untold stories of inclusivity & diversity.)