The long-standing tradition of wearing gowns by the students for the convocation ceremony was changed at the 56th annual convocation ceremony of IIT Madras on Monday, September 30 as PM Modi was visiting.
The institute asked graduates, post-graduates and research scholars to come in white or off-white shirts or short kurtas with similarly-coloured dhotis, pyjamas or pants. Female students were told to wear either a salwar kameez or a saree of the same colours. Both male and female students were directed to wear a traditional shawl (called angavasthiram) that the institute supplied to them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his first visit to Tamil Nadu since he began his second term in May, too was dressed in the same attire where he delivered the convocation address. The members of the Senate and the Chief Guest also wore white robes.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Pranit Mehta, third-year B.Tech student in the Department Of Engineering Design said, “I personally feel that coming from such traditional cultures, it was a good step to leave aside the western culture and keep it simple and “Indian”. However, there was a little concern that the students could not enjoy the experience of throwing up the convocation hat, which was the case with their seniors.”
“I love Indian attire. It was a new experience as already I had experienced wearing western robes for my B Tech convocation earlier,” a graduating M tech student from Andhra Pradesh said.
“The convocation attire reflects Indian culture and traditions. I see the new convocation attire as a symbol of pride and identity of belonging to a country that was the hub for education in the past and as a graduating student,” Ankit Kukadia, an M.tech graduate in Aerospace Engineering, said.
“This time, the college provided angavastram, as a memory with our degree. This will remind us of our memorable convocation. It is a good change,” said Vinit Sharma, an M.Tech graduate.
While some graduates were happy about the change, others did not seem to be very impressed. “I was looking forward to the long traditional robe with a cap to take a picture,” a young woman alumnus from Kerala said, adding, “This looks like a staged change to please the central government pushing a particular ideology.”
Revival Of Handloom Industries
The change in tradition came in-line with a policy change introduced by PM Modi’s government that emphasises on the revival of handloom industries. In June, the University Grants Commission (UGC) requested universities to “consider using handloom fabric as a ceremonial dress for special occasions like convocation”. The notification was similar to one issued in 2015, at the beginning of PM Modi’s first term.
In a similar case, in 2018, IIT Roorkee, Bombay and Kanpur students were asked to wear Indian outfits instead of Western attire. Not just PM Modi, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also highlighted handloom industries when presenting the annual Budget earlier this year – she carried a red cloth folder (‘bahi khata‘).