By late morning, 60 percent of the power had been restored in the eight northern states affected by the outage and the rest was expected to be back on line by the afternoon, Shinde said. The grid was drawing power from the neighboring eastern and western grids as well as getting hydroelectric power from the small neighboring mountain kingdom of Bhutan.
New Delhi residents were roused from sleep when their fans and air conditioners stopped and came out of their homes in the heat as the entire city turned dark. Temperatures in the city were in the mid-30s (90s Fahrenheit) with 89 percent humidity. New Delhi's Metro transit system, with 1.8 million daily riders, stopped for hours during the morning commute. Some trains across the northern region were stranded when their electric engines failed. Others were delayed by hours as they were hooked to diesel engines.
Amit Naik, a toy maker in New Delhi, was forced to close his workshop for the day.
"There was no water, so my machine couldn't run. Other people had the same difficulties," he said.
While the outage was unique in its reach, its impact was softened by Indians' familiarity with almost daily power outages of varying duration. Hospitals and major businesses have backup generators that kick in when during power cuts, and upscale homes run on backup systems powered by truck batteries.
"This will obviously get worse," said Subhash Chawla, a 65-year-old retiree who took the Metro once power was restored. "Unless the Metro has a separate power supply, it will be chaos in the future."
The Confederation of Indian Industry said the outage was a reminder of the urgent need for the government to fix the power sector, ensure a steady supply of coal for power plants and reform the electricity utilities. Transmission and distribution losses in some states are as much as 50 percent because of theft and corruption by employees in the power industry.
Shinde deflected criticism, pointing out that the United States and Brazil also had huge power failures in recent years.