Social differentiation and assimilation had produced too many roles and
ranks for dharma to manage. Elite and ordinary weavers, for example,
occupied various varna ranks. Kayasthas, an elite non-brahmin clerical jati,
had no clear varna status.
A huge population of poor, landless workers had fallen out the bottom of
varna ranks into a catch-all category of “outcaste” or “untouchable.” Many
jatis lived on the margins of Hindu communities and were not allowed into
sacred temple precincts, but they were also essential in everyday economic
activity, where they maintained an ambiguous varna standing.
The majority of Hindus lived in a world of human interactions that included
but surpassed dharma. Urbanisation and migration allowed new arrivals in
many places to claim higher caste rank than they enjoyed at birth. For
example, when Saurashtra weavers migrated from Gujarat to Madurai, in the
seventeenth century, they claimed to be brahmins and their claim received
support from the local rajas.
Many revisionist Dharmasastras rationalised countless post hoc adjustments
of caste standing. Hindu societies also included important non-Hindus, and in
the widening expanse of Mughal domains, varna became a kind of rule-of-
thumb guide to social standing.
  Social groups were officially named as collective entities whose
  representatives received honors, ranks and entitlements in imperial
  society. These groups were thus officially decorated with collective social
  identities, which attached to all the people in them. Akbar perhaps merits
  credit for inventing imperial strategies of ethnic balancing. His minions
  kept accounts of which groups received what honors and ranks. He was
  particularly concerned to counter-balance Turks and Afghans who initially
  dominated his imperial service, whose ethnic loyalties made them suspect.
  To counter their power, he recruited Rajputs, Persians, and Indian
  Muslims into the nobility.
  Strategies were also devised for dividing ethnic groups by pitting leaders
  against each other in competitions for rank, thus to reduce their ability to
  mobilise, warrior clans against imperial armies.