India's opening bowlers Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel did the damage early on after captain Rahul Dravid won the toss and elected to field in Jaipur where England managed just 125 runs - their lowest-ever total against India.
The right-arm/left-arm combination of Patel and Pathan saw Ian Bell, Andrew Flintoff and Michael Yardy all dismissed leg before wicket for respective scores of four, zero, and four, before opener Andrew Strauss was brilliantly caught by Dravid at second slip off the bowling of Pathan for ten.
With England reeling at 27 for 4, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood set about steadying the innings with a good partnership of 28 before Pietersen edged one to Sachin Tendulkar at first slip off the bowling of Patel when on 27.
Patel's career best figures of 3-18 off eight overs were complimented by Pathans 2-20 off eight as India took the early ascendancy over a struggling England side.
"My aim was to bowl in the right areas and it paid off. But I must admit that I got good support from Pathan at the other end," said Patel.
Off-spinner Jamie Dalrymple then joined Collingwood in the middle with the pair putting on 49 for the sixth wicket, but the introduction of Ramesh Powar and Harbhajan Singh's off-breaks saw England's slide resume.
Powar took three of the last five wickets, dismissing Collingwood (38), Sajid Mahmood (8), and Dalrymple (24) to achieve his best-ever one-day figures of 3-24, while Singh chimed in with the wicket of England keeper Chris Read, caught by Pathan for 2.
James Anderson was the last man to fall, run out by Powar for 1 to close the innings on 125 after just 37 overs.
Difficult run chase
India had won just two of their last nine one-day internationals, but looked like strong favourites to overhaul England's meager total with a strong batting line-up on paper.
However the team from the sub-continent made the low run chase difficult for themselves as they struggled to victory after losing six wickets along the way.
Sachin Tendulkar top-scored for
India with 35 runs off 41 deliveries
Steve Harmison, Anderson and Dalrymple took two wickets each, and although India never really looked in danger of losing, it wasn't the walk in the park they expected after turning in a superb bowling effort.
India's wickets tended to fall in pairs with Anderson removing Pathan, who had been elevated to number three, and skipper Dravid in the space of four balls, while spinner Dalrymple dismissed Mahendra Dhoni and Suresh Raina in three balls providing a few anxious moments for the hosts.
Tendulkar, in his fourth innings since returning from injury, top scored for India with 35 off 41 deliveries before being trapped leg before by Harmison, while Yuvraj Singh guided the home side to victory in the 30th over with a steady knock of 27 not out from 61 balls.
"We lost a couple of wickets in the end unnecessarily, but we are happy to start the tournament with a victory under our belt," said Dravid.
Opposing captain Flintoff chose to look ahead, but seemed satisfied with the way his team fought back with the ball.
"We have got to learn from today and come back stronger in the remaining two games. I am pleased with the way we bowled and pegged them back in the end," Flintoff said.
England's next match is against Australia in Jaipur on October 21, while India take on the West Indies in Ahmedabad on October 26.