The Brahmins were in the modern sense the intellectual class, having a monopoly over knowledge. They were also the priestly class, the most powerful and dominating of the four. The last category of "untouchables" – now called Dalits – was added after the preceding four.
As the Brahmins were both the predominant and priestly class, their arguments took the form of theological positions and were called Dhamma. Religious rules imposing various forms and rituals were also developed, and these went into minute details of life. Much later came the draconian Law of Manu, which comprehensively entrenched the rules of Caste enclosure.
Human kind is yet see anything more than what Brahmins have achieved in the field of manipulation. While Brahmins are usually known as "priests", priests are of different kinds, depending on religion. The Brahmin arose by manipulating the expressions of Folk Life. Their main preoccupation became manipulation of popular poems, songs and sayings. They were not the originators of these poems, songs and sayings; probably, these grew quite independently and spontaneously from creative persons like musicians and poets. The Brahmins, by interpreting these, gave fixed meanings and gradually created a principle called Sanatana Dhamma: doctrines valid for all times.
The interpretation function was closely linked to their ritual function as priests. Brahmins developed rituals for every action in life, whether lifetime events such as birth, marriage and death to mundane activities like eating and sleeping. The significance of these rituals was explained through interpretation of common expressions, reduced to written form in the Vedas. The Brahmins thus transformed the products of Folk Life into sacred texts and around them spun a web of rituals binding every aspect of life. It was a society based not on principles but on rituals. As the sole performers of ritual, Brahmins ensured their livelihood. They also created a theory of merit-making within which the highest act of merit was to give gifts to the Brahmins.
Having established this advantageous position it was necessary to maintain it for only themselves. This was done by introduction of endogamy: Brahmin priesthood was deemed hereditary. Only males born into a Brahmin family inherited the right to perform as priests. The training was though normal family rituals and normal acquisition of family prejudices. This was also the reason for the strength of Brahminism during troubled times. It survived the era of Muslim persecution, while Buddhism was destroyed by the same. To become a member of the Buddhist clergy, the Sangha, was and is a matter of choice: acceptance of a set of principles, an integral part of joining. The Sangha was a trained group that once destroyed, with no one to propagate the teachings, found the road to recovery difficult. By contrast, reproduction of Brahmins was tied to natural reproduction.
Under the Caste system forged by the Brahmins, endogamy bound not only those included in a group but also those excluded. The excluded had their own circles in which to find partners. Rules of endogamy were laid down by Brahmins using their function as interpreters of the Vedas and as the rule-makers of ritual. The distancing of groups came through rituals relating to "pollution" and "purification": "higher" Castes coming into contact with "lower" Castes or, (in the worst case scenario) "untouchables", were "polluted" and required to undergo ritual "purification" before resuming normal life.
Importantly, the Brahmins were the ones to introduce the idea of Chaturvarna to the West, asserting that the four-fold division did not involve any form of discrimination. They maintained it was only a division of labour. Prestigious scholars such as Coomaraswamy, well known to the West, accepted the Caste system merely as a division of labour (Coomaraswamy 1979). Mahatma Gandhi, who strongly condemned the present day manifestation of the Caste system (describing it as leprosy) defended the conceptual basis of Caste likewise.
Tracing the origin of Caste to division of labour or similar functions is unsatisfactory, in that like divisions exist in all societies but do not give rise to such rigid practices. Comparison of Caste to the European guild system is not useful for the same reason. Many misconceptions of Caste have originated due to writers trying to explain it to a European audience (most of whom may not have had a deep interest in the matter) by comparing it with experiences that their audience may understand. However, such explanations understate the discrimination suffered by those bearing the brunt of the Caste system.