Published: 30th April 2018
Why students wearing traditional attire for convocation should be a matter of concern
The recent move by the MHRD asking colleges to ditch colonial gown for traditional Indian attires bring into question the need for standardising a single culture in a diverse counrtry like Indian
There are sayings, as in Shakespeare’s Hamlet which says: “...the apparel oft proclaims the man”. A flourishing fashion industry the world over depends on making men, and more importantly women, in public focus and memory. But some things remain static as in the case of Christian religious garments and academic/convocation dresses. A bit of background on the latter is relevant.
It is commonly seen at graduation ceremonies, but formerly academic dress was, and to a lesser degree in many ancient universities still is, worn daily. Today, the ensembles are distinctive in some way to each institution, and generally consist of a gown with a separate hood, and usually a cap (generally either a square academic cap or bonnet).
Now comes a new twist to the subject with nationalism attempting to come centre-stage. But first, the facts as reported in the media. In a move to end the British tradition of wearing convocation gowns as the official graduation dress code within Indian universities, the government is planning to replace the gown with traditional Indian attires. Quoting sources at the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry, the report stated that the government was keen on giving the convocation ceremony a more Indian touch, and felt that gowns and caps worn in several educational institutions were reflective of a British legacy.
A notice will soon be issued by the ministry seeking suggestions from the general public on what kind of attire must replace the existing one.
"A notice will be issued by the ministry and all suggestions will be studied, following which a final decision will be taken. The attire should match with our climatic conditions and at the same time reflect our culture. We don't want to impose anything and that's why suggestions are being invited from all," the report quoted a senior HRD official saying.
In June this 2017, IIT Kanpur students wore kurta pyjamas (for boys) and salwar kameez (for girls) during their convocation ceremony. Last year, IIT Bombay chose khadi over colonial gowns as the official attire for their convocation ceremony. The move is also supposed to help India’s Khadi industry. In some cases, the officiating Chancellors and Vice Chancellors have been deviating from the traditional dress code at convocations.
But, the critical question is that in a country as vast as India where culture and mode of dressing vary from region to region, if not state to state, whose culture and mode of dressing can we standardise on? For example, the mode of dressing is different in North-east India from that in Kerala. So on the pretext of kicking out traditional academic convocation dress are we inviting chaos where there has been some order and uniformity?