What is Diwali & How To Celebrate Diwali as an Ally!

What is Diwali & How To Celebrate Diwali as an Ally!


This year Diwali falls on 24th of October 2022. It is THE largest annual Indian celebration and is known as the Festival of Lights! It is a reminder that light conquers darkness, goodness conquers evil (and chai conquers all, of course). In South India, Diwali is also called Deepawali (rows of light). During Diwali we open our homes, our hearts, pots of chai and barfi (sweets) to our family and friends.

Diwali is a national holiday, with many Indians around the world taking this time off work to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Diwali can last between 1-3 weeks for different Indian communities. Different faiths will celebrate Diwali in their own unique way. 

diwali image chai walli uppma virdi


There are three main faiths in India and around the world that celebrate Diwali:
  1. Hindus celebrate Diwali to mark the beginning of the new year in accordance with the lunar calendar. Diwali also reflects the triumph of good over evil after Krishna's victory over Narakasura.
  2. Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas on Diwali, which is a story of the struggle for freedom. Bandi Chhor Divas is a celebration for the victory of the 6th Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind Singh Ji, and 52 Hindu princes, who in 1619 were imprisoned by Emperor Jahangir.
  3. Jains celebrate Diwali as a remembrance of the Lord Mahavir, who attained nirvana (complete knowledge and enlightenment), which established the dharma followed by the Jains' throughout the world.

diwali image chai walli uppma virdi

Old illustration of women celebrating Diwali with sparkles in India



(Uppma's perspective): As a Punjabi Sikh, I can only explain how Diwali is celebrated in my family and community. Each year we find out the date for Diwali based on the lunar new year and mark that date to take work off or finish early. Before Diwali, we would spring clean the house (excessively!) and have some traditional Punjabi delicacies, cooked or bought from our local Indian store.

On Diwali, we make a Rangoli design at our front door. We open our doors to let the goddess Lakshmi bless our homes with health and wealth. When we all come home as a family, we eat sweet and savoury snacks and drink masala chai. We then light candles (safely) in different locations to bring lightness into our home. We then head to the Gurudwara (Sikh Temple), where we are joined by local communities to celebrate this sacred day. We finish our evening by lighting sparklers and fireworks to enjoy the festival of light!

This year Diwali is on Monday 24 October. I am celebrating Diwali in Canada with my husband, Daniel, and my mother, Upinder, by attending the Diwali dedicated Canucks Ice Hockey game in Vancouver. The Canucks team really know how to celebrate Diwali - my husband used to play ice hockey for Australia and is an avid fan! 

But, regardless the reason or your background, Diwali can be celebrated by all. It's a special time to cleanse your home and health. And to let go of the past and strengthen your bonds with your family and friends.

Daniel Shaw and Uppma Virdi Celebrating Diwali during COVID-19 at Revesby Gurudwara in New South Wales.



I personally think Diwali is a time for allies to consider how you can support the awareness of cultural heritage. I was listening to my friend, Navi Gill, an Ayurvedic practitioner based in Canada on A Little More Good's Podcast discussing the concept of "taking up space". The health and wellness industries in the West have piggy-backed and commoditised on ancient wisdom and tradition from other cultures for some time. Many yoga and Ayurvedic practitioners in our society do not come from Indian backgrounds, when teaching these ancient Indian modalities that are ingrained in our DNA. A lot of the wisdom I have gained, has been from my family, culture and roots.

Navi talks about the concept of creating space for people to share their innate wisdom. As an example, before you decide to sell/teach/provide a cultural art-form, why not consider if you're about to "take up space" somewhere where you may be in a position of privilege, and to actually create space for someone whose culture it is to do this. This way, they can share their heritage and inter-generational wisdom. These simple acts can create a world of difference and help give power back to a lot of marginalised societies around the world. Chai Walli is actually one of the few chai businesses in Australia where chai and Ayurveda is a part of its owner’s culture and heritage, and female owned/run (consider that for a moment).

diwali image chai walli uppma virdi

Uppma Virdi with friends, Harry and Sarah, celebrating Diwali at Revesby Gurudwara 


Some ways that you can celebrate Diwali this year (and years to come) as an ally in the workplace include:
  1. Allowing people who celebrate Diwali to substitute Diwali for another public holiday which they may not celebrate.
  2. Giving those who celebrate Diwali the option to leave work early to celebrate Diwali.
  3. The main purpose to Diwali is to spend time with your loved ones, so consider not having too many Diwali functions/events at work. Consider having these events on dates that aren't the actual Diwali day so people can spend time with their family and spring clean.
  4. If you’re running a work/community event, trying to support an Indian-owned business in your supply chain for the catering or gifting. (E.g. we have been engaged for 3 chai catering events).
  5. Consulting someone from the Indian culture about how they would like to see Diwali celebrated in their workplace.
  6. Providing small gifts or sweet treats to colleagues with a message about Diwali. (E.g. we've received corporate orders from organisations wanting to gift their team a Diwali gift).
  7. Featuring a newsletter dedicated to informing people about what Diwali is to help inform and educate.

diwali image chai walli uppma virdi

Some ways that you can celebrate Diwali this year (and years to come) as an ally personally and in your community:
  1. Check if there are any local Diwali events happening in your area that you could attend.
  2. Support your local Indian restaurant by booking in a meal with your loved ones on Diwali.
  3. Watch a Bollywood flick at home (my recommendations: Barfi, Mary Kom, Dangal, Shabaash Mithu, Devdas, DDLJ, Piku) or in the cinemas.
  4. Support an Indian-owned small business, service or artist and order something online from them. Wish them a Happy Diwali!
  5. Think about the message of Diwali, light over darkness, and how this reflects in your life.
  6. Wish your colleagues from the Indian diaspora a Happy Diwali. Ask them if they’d like to share a sweet or have lunch together to celebrate Diwali.
  7. Be considerate of this special time and learn what Diwali it means to over 1.2 billion people across the globe.


We wanted to take this as a huge opportunity to thank you all for supporting our mission in creating authentic and artisan chai blends. Because of you, we get to share a piece of my heritage with the world. It's so special to me to be able to preserve cultural heritage through Chai Walli and share my family stories and recipes with you and your family. Wishing you a very Happy Diwali this year and many years to come.

Uppma Virdi x

diwali image chai walli uppma virdi

Uppma Virdi with mother, Upinder Virdi, celebrating Diwali at home


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