Why do we perform the Oonjal or Swing ceremony and what is the significance of the swing ceremony?
While most people understand that this is an integral part of many south indian weddings (traditionally in Iyer and Iyengar weddings, but nowaday we find it is adopted in other south Indian weddings as well), not everyone knows why the "oonchal" (swing) ceremony is performed.
This ceremony is performed after the Kaasi Yatra. This is when the (boy) groom agrees to marry the girl(bride). A funfilled enactment that elicits laughter and a ton of comments from the relatives and friends.
The couple are seated on a swing (OONCHAL) and they rock forth and back, as the ladies around sing – LAALLI, songs to praise the couple while the elders bless the couple. The chains of the swing signify the eternal Cosmic link with Almighty above. The to-and-fro motion represent the undulating waves of life; yet, in mind and body they shall move in harmony unperturbed, steady and stable.
Five women wash the couple’s feet with milk and sometimes wipe it off with the edge of their sarees. Also, the women apply turmeric and kumkum on the feet of the bride and bridegroom. The elders and relatives take turns in making a circular motion around the couple with their hand, holding red and yellow coloured rice balls or lime.This is done to ward off evil spirits. Then the bride’s paternal aunt walks around the swing with a lamp placed on a plate followed by the immediate lady relatives.Finally, aarthi is performed to the bride and groom and they are fed sweetened milk and banana.
source:www.matrimonybazaar.com, South Indian wedding handbook