PANGAT from Sanskrit pankti (literally a row, line, series, or a group, assembly, company) stands in Sikh terminology for commensality or sitting together on the ground in a row to partake of food from a common kitchen regardless of caste, creed, sex, age or social status. Pangat is thus a synonym for Guru ka Langar, an institution of fundamental importance in Sikhism.
It is customary for diners in the Guru ka Langar to sit side by side in a pangat or row when food is served to them by sevadars or volunteers. The institution of Guru ka Langar itself thereby came to be referred to as pangat. Another reason for the popularity of the term probably is its alliterative and sonorous affinity to sangat or holy congregation, another basic institution of the Sikhs.
As, later in Sikh history, deg (literally kettle) came to stand for Guru ka Langar because it rhymed with tegh (literally sword), so did pangat for rhyming with sangat. The earliest use of pangat in Sikh literature appears in Bhai Gurdas (d. 1636), poet and exegete, in his Varan, XVII. 12, where it matches sangat to produce resonant effect: “hans vansu nihchal mati sangati pangati sathu bananda” — firm believers of the tribe of swans (i.e. the Sikhs) made appropriate company in sangat and pangat — in sangat they pray together, in pangat they eat together. Guru Amar Das (1479-1574) attached particular importance to pangat. He expected every visitor to partake of food in it before seeing him. This gave rise to the popular saying: "pahile pangat pachhe sangat" — eating together must take precedence over meeting together.
1. Banerjee, Indubhusan, Evolution of the Khalsa. Calcutta, 1936
2. Macauliffe, Max Arthur, The Sikh Religion. Oxford, 1909
3. Gian Singh, Giani, Panth Prakash. Delhi, 1880
4. Sabadarth Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Amritsar, 1964
Above adapted from article By Bhagat Singh