Mumbai University dumps ‘colonial robes’ for Indian attire at convocationhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/mumbai-university-dumps-colonial-robes-for-indian-attire-at-convocation/

Mumbai University dumps ‘colonial robes’ for Indian attire at convocation

Former human resource development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar had last year urged all universities across the country to replace “British-inspired” convocation attire with traditional Indian clothes as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.

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The proposal to change the convocation dress code was passed unanimously at a previous meeting on September 13. (Picture for representation)

Taking a cue from several universities and institutions in the country, the 162-year-old Mumbai University (MU) will do away with its colonial tradition of robes for the convocation ceremony, replacing it with “Indian attire”. The university, at a meeting of the management council on Wednesday, announced the formation of a three-member committee that will define the new dress code.

The proposal to change the convocation dress code was passed unanimously at a previous meeting on September 13. Also, unlike previous years, the convocation ceremony has been moved forward and is likely to be conducted in October. At the council meeting, vice-chancellor Dr Suhas Pednekar announced that the three-member committee will include experts in the domain of textiles, Indian cultural attire and sartorial trends.

Former human resource development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar had last year urged all universities across the country to replace “British-inspired” convocation attire with traditional Indian clothes as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) had also issued a circular in June, asking all public and private universities to go traditional during convocation ceremonies.

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“The committee will focus on fabric, quality, Indian cultural reflection and colour combination among other things. The practice of using sash and scarves will also be changed. The report, after consultation with the authorities, will be submitted soon,” said MU spokesperson Leeladhar Bansod. Confirming that the convocation ceremony had been moved forward, he said the university was trying to conduct it in October depending on the availability of guests.

A member of the management council said, “It was decided that students should receive their degrees at the right time. Most students opt for other courses or travel abroad after graduation and may not be available for the ceremony. Some have to travel all the way just to attend the ceremony.”

The decision to do away with robes comes as a relief to not just students but also faculty members. Close to 120 robes are donned by faculties present for the convocation ceremony. Only gold medallists of colleges attend the convocation at MU, some of whom get their own robes while others are happy to don only a sash.

Another member said the idea was to wear Indian but not of a particular colour or type. Students could wear whatever they preferred, the member added.

Apart from the promotion of Indian culture as one of the major reasons behind the decision, members also pointed out other disadvantages of the age-old practice of wearing gowns. “Wearing robes was not only inconvenient but also suffocating. The practice is not conducive to Indian weather since it particularly gets humid,” a member said.

While several other universities and colleges have already embraced the move some years ago, teachers and principals have appreciated MU’s “delayed but positive” move.

Commenting on the decision, St Xavier’s principal Professor Rajendra Shinde said, “It is a good move by the university. At St Xavier’s, we’ve introduced a traditional dress code since 2016. The black robes aren’t suitable for our weather conditions. The practice also turned out to be expensive. Since our convocation ceremony is held over three days, we had to get nearly 300 robes ironed before each ceremony.”

SNDT University has also done away with the practice for years now. Dr Mala Pandurang, principal of BNN College of Home Science, said, “Students will appreciate it more if the committee comes up with an idea that is based not only on Indian fabric, but also helps students don an attire that is celebratory in nature and distinctive from other attires. The way black robes symbolise a convocation.”

IIT Bombay, Savitribai Phule Pune University, National Institute of Fashion Technology and Nagpur University are some other institutions that have done away with the ancient tradition.

Some students, however, were not enthused about the decision. “I don’t think that’s a great idea because we wait for three years to get to wear the robe. We look forward to throwing the black caps into the air, we share these pictures of on our social media profiles. Inconvenience isn’t an issue because it’s just a day,” said Jobin Thomas, a third-year student of mass media at Wilson College.

Printouts no more

The council has also decided to digitise documents related to MU meetings of academic council, management council and senate. Promoting the concept of “paperless” meetings, the varsity will do away with printing
out agenda copies, action taken reports, minutes, resolutions, suggestions apart from other administrative documents.

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“On an average, the varsity prints thousand pages per person per meeting,” said a council member.