Indian Lancers are good medium cavalry suitable for flank attacks, but not frontal assaults on prepared infantry.
The chariot and elephant will surely always have their place on the battlefield, but perhaps there are also lessons to be learned from the peoples that live to the west of the Hindu Kush mountains. These warriors are an example of this, mounted on horses and wielding lances and swords, they can charge into enemy lines and engage enemy cavalry on an equal footing. Wearing armour and helmets, and with shields to protect them, these warriors come from the upper tiers of the Kshatriya class, and no doubt, some among them may have Shaka or Yavana blood mixed in their veins.
Although better able to handle themselves in a melee than any other native Indian cavalry available, primarily through their use of armour and helmets, these men cannot be compared to the heaviest of the cavalry troops fielded by other nations. Although inspired by the tactics and equipment of the Yavanas and the peoples of the steppe, cavalry is not a traditional part of the classical Vedic-Aryan four-armed army, or Caturangabala, and more traditional commanders may not know how to use them. Indeed, they themselves might be a bit uneasy in their role, and if engaged by more experienced heavy cavalry, or heavy pikemen, might not be able to hold their own. Nevertheless, they are the most powerful cavalry fielded by native Indian commanders, and fill a much needed role in the army if employed correctly.
Historically, in the traditional four-armed army, or Caturangabala, of Vedic-Aryan times, cavalry played a very small role. Its main purpose was to screen the main army as it advanced, and to harass and pursue routers after the victory was a fact. Any operations that needed more force or momentum than could be achieved by regular infantry was mostly handled either by chariots or by elephants. There would on occasion have existed more heavily armoured horsemen, and Kautilya states in his Arthashastra that the armoured horsemen should hold the centre of the cavalry columns. However, with the arrival of foreign powers on the borders of India, which used cavalry to a much greater degree than had been the case in India during the Vedic age, armoured cavalry became more common. The Indo-Greek king Menandros had a substantial cavalry force in his army as he conquered the Gangetic plain, no doubt with sizeable native Indian contingents to flesh out the Greek component. The presence of the Sakas and Kushanas, both of nomad ancestry, would also have affected the cavalry tradition of India, for by Gupta times, not only do we find many coins showing equestrian figures, but descriptions of the royal armies include mention of cavalry armed with lances and bows, wearing helmets and coats of armour that go to their knees. By the time of the Sunga Empire, in the second century BC, such armour would still have been fairly uncommon, but cavalrymen wearing more traditional Indian suits of armour seem to appear from this period on in depictions and mentions, and were no doubt an import from neighbouring peoples, rather than an indigenous invention.