The chariot warriors are heavily armoured, and well protected in the chariot, making them very resistant to archer fire.
Riding in horse-drawn chariots, these warriors come from the elite section of the Kshatriya caste, superseding most other warriors in both skill and wealth. They take honour in fighting in the same manner as the ancient Vedic-Aryan heroes of bygone days, and attempt to equal the bravery of Krishna and Arjuna in battle. They are skilled in all types of fighting, but their favoured weapon is the composite bow. In the Artashastra, Kautilya lists wood, bone and sinew as the material of which such bows were made. Like most Indian warriors, they wear their leather quivers on their backs. Some extra quivers would likely have been carried in the chariots as well. All warriors carry Indian broadswords for use in melee if the chariot breaks down or they want to engage in a duel on foot. Each chariot carries three men: two warriors armed with bows and one charioteer.
The wealth of these men is clearly seen on their clothing, which is coloured with expensive dyes and, like most Indian clothing, made of cotton. Cotton had been known in India for a long time, and was extensively used for clothing. Megasthenes reports that there were bushes in India which produced wool, which must refer to cotton, but many western readers at the time found this unbelievable. On their heads, some wear turbans of dyed cloth, which serve to deaden blows from blunt weapons. Others wear the traditional Indian hair knot and a small decorative garland. Many wear decorative jewellery in gold, such as necklaces and earrings. Many of the warriors wear heavy armour. Kautilya describes several types of armour, such as foot-length and knee-length armour coats. Both types are represented on the chariot warriors, mostly of scale, but some are also leather coats with metal plates attached to them. The armour is made of a leather base, with metal armour, either of iron, bronze or copper, attached to it. The leather extends slightly below the end of the metal to avoid injury to the wearer. Some warriors also wear helmets. The helmets seen are of the pointed type seen on the reliefs from Nagarjunakonda, and also a round type seen on the reliefs at Sanchi. Some helmets have gilded and painted decorations along the rim. Their bracers are presumably repoussés with gold attachments.
The chariot consists of a box, probably of leather or wicker on a wooden frame, to which an axle, extending some distance outside the box on each side, is attached with leather strings, roughly to the middle of the box, although some depictions seem to hint at it being located somewhat more towards the front of the chariot. The floor in the front of the chariot, where the driver stands, is slightly raised. The wheels are fastened to the end of the axle, possibly with linchpins, but this remains uncertain. The wheels had at least eight spokes, although some depictions show many more. This could, however, be a way to implement the chakra symbol into the pictures. The wheels are made of wood, but with a sort of metal tyre. The felloe may have been made of several parts, or one big piece of wood which had been bent. The chariot pole is fastened at the bottom of the box, and goes through a hole in the yoke. Sometimes an object called a "three-fold piece" is mentioned in sources, but what it was remains uncertain. The most plausible explanation is to interpret it as a pair of wooden poles, supporting the main chariot pole, and fastened to a third pole, situated under the chariot, which is parallel to the axle. A small piece of wood is also attached to the back of the chariot, so that it will not tip over when no horses are attached to it.
The chariot warriors are heavily armoured, and well protected in the chariot, making them very resistant to archer fire. They are élite warriors, and the bravest men an Indian general can muster, so they will not break unless badly worn out. Racing across the battlefield, they can rain arrows upon their enemies, or break formations by charging through them. They are very vulnerable if caught in melee, though, as their tactics rely entirely on speed and manoeuvrability. Used wisely, they may tip the balance greatly in their general's favour, but if used carelessly, they may cause the battle to end in bitter defeat.
Historically, one of the most distinguishing features of ancient Indian warfare was the prevalence of war chariots carrying knights and nobles into battle. Chariots were known in India since the time of the Indus civilisation, but it was the Vedic-Aryans that turned it into the horse-drawn two-wheeled vehicle which was to become associated with heroism in India forever after. Wheeled vehicles were known among the Indo-Europeans at least since the time of the Afanasevo culture in the 3rd millennium BC, and had both religious and practical importance. When the Indo-European peoples started to migrate into the outer Eurasian regions from their central Asian homeland, they brought this technology with them. Their most important contributions were no doubt the spoked wheel, which was far superior to the solid wheels that had previously been prevalent, for instance in Sumeria, and the use of horses as draft animals. Previously, mules had been used, something which is attested to both in Sumeria and among the people of the Indus civilisation. In India, the two-wheeled chariot became a powerful weapon on the open fields of the Gangetic Plains, and thus gained its position as the preferred transportation of the upper classes. Potentates riding chariots can be seen on many early monuments, not least the murals at Sanchi.
Chariots were considered one of the four main arms of the so called "four-armed army", or Caturangabala. Kautilya describes the use of the chariot as breaking the mass of the enemy force, and frightening it with magnificence and loud noises. He also notes that it is useful for occupying positions on the battlefield. From this, it is clear what importance the chariot had on ancient Indian battlefields, and that it was, to a large extent, the speed of the chariot which gave it the elevated role it held. Chandragupta had over 8,000 chariots in his army, according to Megasthenes, which is slightly fewer than the number of elephants at his disposal. Given that each chariot had a crew of two or three men, this means that the chariot corps consisted of at least 16,000 or maybe even 24,000 men. The ranks of the chariot military arm would have been swollen still further by the servants and support personnel that according to Kautilya should accompany the chariot corps, and hence, a quite substantial number of men would have occupied with the chariot arm.
However, despite its illustrious past, it soon became clear that the age of chariot warfare was past. Already at the Battle of the Hydaspes, the chariots commanded by Poros's son were destroyed by Alexander's forces when they got stuck in mud, and during the next two centuries, further exposure to the types of warfare practised by the peoples to the northwest of the Indian subcontinent forced Indian rulers to gradually abandon the chariot as an effective weapon. Its battlefield role was gradually transferred to the cavalry, which became more heavily armed and armoured, but still retained the speed and manoeuvrability of the chariots, while the elephants took over the role of heavy shock forces and archery platforms. Chariots lingered in Indian armies up to the 8th century AD, but by that time, their role was primarily symbolic.