1750s, with armies dispatched by a governor
In this cultural context, the institution of the public darbar spread among
people of rank at every level. Thus, the cultural model of the sultan spread
among people at all levels as they aspired to demonstrate the superiority of
their personal position in society.
Ritualised subordination defined the ranks of authority in layered systems of
sovereignty and entitlement. Thus, darbari culture spread far and wide as
every man endowed with a piece of sovereignty held his own darbar to
receive those below him, who came to pay respect and tribute.
Elaborate public dramas and literary productions of praise, flattery and
devotion became media for elevating men whose glory secured the authority
of subordinates.
Conversely, conferring honors on underlings defined sovereignty at every
level. Subordinates retained their power by recognising a superior, who
conferred honor on those below, in return for ritual recognition and political
Gradations in the imperial ranks became units of measure for social mobility
in everyday life. Where a person or group stood in imperial society, was
marked precisely with symbols and rituals of ranks that became coveted
social assets.
Ethnic Mixing and Cultural Diversity
Penetration of Older Systems of Social Ranking by Imperial
Ranks Thus, in local societies, imperial ranks penetrated older systems of
social ranking and influenced their historical development. As we have seen,
Hindu societies that developed as upwardly mobile groups used dharma to
sanctify a ritual ranking of castes (jatis) in the varna idiom, which placed
priests and warriors on top and merchants and peasants below. Many local
Hindu ranking systems evolved in dynastic realms where rulers defined jati
ranks from the top; and expanding agrarian societies occupied the jati ranks
from the bottom.
In Mughal times, social change surpassed the regulatory capacity of Hindu
ranking institutions. Various sultans, rajas and state officials had conferred
honours that redefined social ranks outside the ritual complex of Hindu
temple life. The darbars of great men competed with temples as ritual sites