By Swami Harshananda
Apāṅkteya literally means ‘unfit to be included in the row’.
As a corollary of the doctrine, it was also believed that food handled by persons of doubtful integrity could be defiled and the same had to be purified by appropriate rites. The doctrine seems to have been further extended to declare that certain classes of people, if they were allowed to sit in the same paṅkti (row of people sitting for food), could defile the whole row and hence were branded as ‘apāṅkteya’ or unworthy of being allowed to sit in the row along with others. Sometimes they were also called ‘paṅktiduṣakas,’ those who defile the row.
A perusal of these lists shows that persons who have given up their allotted duties (varṇadharmas) and have taken to other means of livelihood, perpetrators of heinous crimes, patients suffering from incurable or infectious diseases, those addicted to drinks and debauchery and the persons who do not follow even elementary principles of ethics and etiquette have all been stigmatized as apāṅkteyas.
- Chāndogya Upanisad 7.26.2
- Manusmrti 3.150-166
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore