What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the word convocation? A sea of black robes? Graduates flinging their caps in the air post the ceremony? Well this image is going to get a desi makeover now and convocation robes and caps may soon become a thing of past in India. According to The Print, University Grants Commission had issued a circular to universities in India in June, to embrace traditional attire for the said ceremony as, “using handloom garments would give a sense of pride of being Indian.” And now it is being reported that Mumbai University will trade robes and caps with traditional Indian attire this year, with an aim to promote Indian culture, reports The Times of India.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Graduates at Mumbai University will wear traditional wear instead of robes for their convocation this year.
  • In June UGC had also issued circular, encouraging universities in the country to switch from robes and caps to ethnic Indian wear for the ceremony.
  • Can we Indianise a western ceremony by draping it in khadi?
  • Since convocation itself is a western ceremony, why not do away with it too, along with graduation robes and caps?

When the ceremony itself is a western concept, does it make any sense to just traditionalise the attire part of it?

This Indianisation of the graduation ceremony hasn’t gone down well with many, as they are deeming it an unnecessary step taken to further enforce cultural policing on students and the education system in India. When the ceremony itself is a western concept, does it make any sense to just traditionalise the attire part of it?

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Convocation in itself is a trend which has caught up in India, on a large scale only recently. Restricted to reputed professional colleges with decades and sometimes centuries of scholastic history on their backs, it is only now that almost every university and college, be it in tier two or tier three cities has begun to conduct the ceremony. So, how does it feel to be part of one? Well, I missed my own convocation due to personal reasons, but then I got the opportunity to watch my sister walk up on the stage dressed in a black robe and a cap, and receive her degree, and as an elder sibling, it tugged at my heart.

And even as a parent or relative of a student, the ceremony has a way of rubbing elation and pride on you, as you see your ward’s journey of attaining education come to a successful end.

The vista of an entire batch of students dressed in identical robes, beaming with pride, walking up to receive their degrees, medals or certificates from the guest of honour, posing for their class photo and waiting eagerly to toss their caps in the air, to celebrate their success and perhaps release, is indeed a sight to behold. Convocation doesn’t just celebrate the successful completion of an educational course, it celebrates students and all the hard work they have put in to get to their goal. And even as a parent or relative of a student, the ceremony has a way of rubbing elation and pride on you, as you see your ward’s journey of attaining education come to a successful end.

So does it matter what you wear to your convocation? Also, with the make in India drive in full swing, shouldn’t we all be embracing handlooms openly and cheer for this move, which will give yet another opportunity to the weavers of India? However, what is the agenda here? Wearing Indian handloom with pride, or cultural policing? Trading robes with kurtas and sarees or enforcing cultural norms in sections where it doesn’t belong?

The intent to boost handloom and to connect students to their roots does make sense, but then draping khadi over a colonial ceremony makes no sense. If we truly intend to get rid of leftover colonial ethos, then we should also ditch the convocation ceremony along with the robes.

Image Credit: The Hindu

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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