of a larger multi-cultural scene where people gained rank in various ways and
sarkar became a powerful arbiter of status. At the top and bottom and in the
vast middle ranks of Hindu societies, activities that decided social rank
crossed cultural boundaries defined by religion; strictly Hindu ranking
systems became inadequate to the task of establishing social status even
among the most observant Hindus.
In all the regions and vernaculars of Indo-Persian culture, however, wealthy
warriors, priests, merchants and zamindars occupied the upper social ranks,
regardless of religion.
Similarly, the numerically large poor people of all occupations—who were
mostly manual workers, nomads, forest dwellers, fisher folk and other such
groups—stayed at the bottom ranks.
Aspiring peasants, artisans, shop keepers and countless others fought for
ranks in between.
Individuals acquired social standing by obtaining honours in public rituals.
The number of institutions that distributed honours multiplied, and in
regional societies, groups paid their attention on those institutions most
important to them locally.
Rajas, sultans, priests, gurus, sufis and monasteries conferred honours.
Businesses, farming communities, urban centres and dynasties presented
opportunities for honour.
Social groups rallied around institutions that defined their internal ranks and
connected them to the wider world of ranks.
Opportunities for Upward Mobility With increasing commercialism in
societies pervaded by warrior power, markets and war provided opportunities
for upward mobility, and became more so in the eighteenth century.
But strategic marriage alliances continued as a basic technique for raising
one’s social standing. Marriages among families engaged in the political
project of maintaining and improving their social rank created new social
groups, which combined attributes of social class and ethnicity.
Rajputs provide good examples. When Rajput families struck alliances with
Mughals, they entered into an imperial ruling class and also enhanced their
status as leaders of Rajputs. Their Kshatriya aura never lost its varna glow,
but its social influence increased in proportion to Rajput success in a politics
                                the confines of varna.
of social mobility that escaped