Openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir easily negotiated a tricky 18.1 overs before heavy rain brought an early end to the day's play that was marked by a solid century from the ever-reliable Michael Hussey.
The consistent left-hander shored up Australia's first innings with a gritty 146 before he was last man out soon after tea.
Sehwag began in his typical aggressive style, smashing seven boundaries against the four-man Australian pace attack on the way to 43 not out. His Delhi team mate Gambhir was unbeaten on 20.
India will resume on Saturday looking to build a sizeable total of their own on a wicket that is still batsman-friendly but could keep low later in the match.
Hussey, who averages an astonishing 72 in 26 matches after making his Test debut three years ago aged 30, has already scored nine hundreds and as many half-centuries in his remarkable career.
Entering the fray just before tea on the first day, Hussey batted for seven hours, hitting 15 boundaries and a six to frustrate India's hopes of terminating the innings early.
Left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan, who bowled Hussey, finished with five for 91, while new-ball partner Ishant Sharma had figures of four for 77.
There was no joy, however, for the spinners. Indian captain Anil Kumble had unflattering figures of 0-129 from 43 overs while Harbhajan Singh went for 1-103 from 41.
Australia, who resumed on their overnight score of 254-4, lost all-rounder Shane Watson in the third over of the day, bowled off-stump by a sharp inswinger from Sharma.
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin put on 91 for the sixth wicket with Hussey, contributing 33.
Sharma removed Haddin and debutant Cameron White in the space of three overs after lunch but Brett Lee (27) helped Hussey along by adding 59 for the eighth wicket.
Sharma had Haddin and White caught in the cover region off deliveries that came off the barren pitch slowly, an indication that batting may become difficult as the Test progresses.
Hussey, who was on 49 when Watson was out, took charge with three boundaries off Zaheer, two of them exquisite cover drives and the third a ferocious pull to square-leg.
The West Australian also swung Harbhajan for six over the midwicket fence.
Zaheer claimed the last three Australian wickets in the space of 14 runs after tea, shattering the stumps of Lee, Mitchell Johnson and finally Hussey.
Australian skipper Ricky Ponting Thursday notched his 36th career Test century, just three behind record holder Sachin Tendulkar's tally of 39.
The visitors were helped along towards their big total by shabby Indian fielding, highlighted by retiring former captain Sourav Ganguly letting the ball pass through his legs at mid-off.
Ganguly, 36, said on Tuesday he will retire from international cricket after the four-Test series ends.
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