Although commissioned, they would be considered as senior enlisted personnel and fulfil a role similar to that of the most senior non-commissioned officers in other armies. A battalion's single subedar-major assists the commander in much the same way as a regimental sergeant major would (to the extent that this rank, known as regimental havildar major, is now almost obsolete in the Indian Army).
Under British rule a subedar-major wore the crown of a full major, a tradition which has continued with slight variation after independence. India now use Ashoka lions with a gold and red stripe below, and Pakistan a wreathed star with green and red. These stripes separate subedar-majors from full commissioned majors; in the Old Indian Army[clarification needed] this distinction was made by race.[clarification needed]
In the cavalry, the equivalent rank is risaldar-major. Subedar-major or risaldar-major equated to a British major and subedar or risaldar to captain, although junior to all British officers.