South Africa were 64 for no wicket, an overall lead of 152, when bad light ended play Thursday.
Only eight balls were bowled and four runs added after a 45-minute stoppage caused when four of the five floodlights augmenting poor natural light went out of operation.
Play resumed after the power was restored but umpires Asad Rauf and Ian Howell soon decided the light was too bad. They took the players off the field to the obvious dismay of South African captain Graeme Smith and fellow opening batsman AB de Villiers.
Smith and De Villiers were earlier booed when they opted for the dressing room following the power failure. The batsmen initially opted to continue batting but soon afterwards a vicious bouncer from VRV Singh hit AB de Villiers on the glove, flying over the slips. At the end of the over Smith gestured at the failed floodlights and the umpires offered him the chance to go off.
South Africa need to win to square the three-match series and with more cloudy weather predicted for the remaining two days, the loss of 36.3 overs Thursday was a blow to their chances of forcing a victory.
India were earlier all out for 240 on a heavily overcast day. The floodlights were on from soon after the start of play.
South Africa bowled efficiently to gain a first innings lead of 88 despite a patient unbeaten half-century by VVS Laxman, who finished with 50 not out after batting for 282 minutes. He faced 156 balls and hit three fours.
Indian wickets fell in bursts, with the most crucial breakthrough achieved by Makhaya Ntini, who dismissed Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly within three balls to reduce India to 125 for five. Tendulkar made 63, his first Test half-century of the year, before attempting a cramped cut to be caught behind.
It was the first time in 14 innings since he made 109 against Sri Lanka in Delhi in December 2005 that Tendulkar had made a substantial score. He batted for 174 minutes, faced 115 balls and hit 11 boundaries.
Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni put on 54 for the sixth wicket before new cap Morne Morkel took three wickets for two runs in 20 balls as India limped to 183 for eight at lunch.
There was more resistance from the tourists when Laxman and Shanthakumaran Sreesanth added 52 for the ninth wicket before the last two wickets fell within six balls.
Ntini took three for 41 and Morkel finished with three for 86.
De Villiers and the out-of-form Smith shared the best opening partnership of a series in which the openers of both teams have struggled as South Africa took the lead beyond 100. It was the first time in four innings that South Africa reached double figures without losing a wicket.
Smith had another shaky start, Before he had scored he edged Zaheer Khan just short of first slip. But he gradually improved his timing as he reached 28 not out by the close. De Villiers was on 31.
Umpire Mark Benson had to leave the field with heart palpitations four overs into the day. He was taken to St Augustine's hospital and admitted to the intensive care unit for observation overnight. He was replaced by Howell, a South African who started the match as the television umpire.