The distinctions between the four main varnas and the other permutations
and combinations like the mixed castes would have remained very clear and
distinct, if the varna system had functioned as a superimposed hierarchical
layer of social groups. However, curiously enough, while the identity of the
Brahmin and the panchamavarna (untouchable) is generally clear, references
in the Dharmasastras to the intermediate groups often appear to be somewhat
confused, if not contradictory altogether.
     However, the Buddhist Pali texts provide us with a clear definition of
these intermediate groups. Here the four-fold division of khattiya,
bahamanna, vessa and sudda is recognised in terms of social categories, but
not always as actual social units. The first two groups can be identified with
actual social units, but the last two are left vague. However, on the basis of
this literature, it can be stated that a two-fold division of society into upper
and lower categories ukkatthajati and hinajati) constituting the varna had
been more commonly in use. The upper category is frequently described as
consisting of the khattiya, bahamanna and gahapati. The term khattiya is
generally used for the ruling families of the oligarchies, such as those of the
Sakyas, Mallas, and Lichchhavis. The term bahamanna is clearly identified
with Brahmin. The term gahapati can also be identified in precise social
terms as the affluent householder, though not a member of an actual social
     It was clear that aspiration to political power could not be strictly limited
to the Kshatriya varna, and therefore a concession had to be made. The
concession appears to have been that a king of non-Kshatriya origin had to
seek validation and be proclaimed of Kshatriya origin and be given an
appropriate genealogy. Thus, although in theory kingship was the prerogative
of the Kshatriya alone, in practice the office was frequently held by non-
Kshatriyas. By seeking validation the ritual status in the Brahmin-Kshatriya
relationship was preserved. But this working arrangement took several
centuries to evolve and did not come into practice in any significant manner
until about the Gupta age.
     The validation of Kshatriya status was essentially an attempt to acquire
the appropriate and legitimate lineage. The first major example of validation
occurs in the Puranas. The Vishnu Purana, composed in the Gupta period,
lists in its section on dynastic chronicles   the various dynasties and kings who