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Within each of the four major hierarchical Varnas of the Caste System there exist, in fact if not in theory, numerous caste groups. The Imperial Gazetteer provides a careful list of the most important castes throughout British India. Each of these castes was usually also internally divided into various sub-castes. The Imperial Gazetteer, in its discussion of castes, gives a number of mechanisms by which such sub-castes might form. Like castes (only usually less radically, since there was usually less social distance involved), sub-castes had complex rules and practices among themselves to regulate interdining and, above all, intermarriage.

Professor Anu Rao explores the differences between subcastes such as the untouchable mahars and, Ambedkar's community, chamars.