Just 15 overs were bowled in the 75 minutes of play possible before lunch, during which Sri Lanka grabbed two early wickets after sending India in to bat on a greenish pitch under overcast conditions.
The tourists slipped to 14-2 in the fourth over before moving to 50 without further loss, but heavy rain that lashed the Sinhalese sports club prevented any further play in the day.
Cheteshwar Pujara was unbeaten on 19 and skipper Virat Kohli was on 14, the pair having put on 36 for the third wicket to stymie the Sri Lankan attack.
The series is locked at 1-1 after Sri Lanka won the opening Test in Galle by 63 runs and India drew level with a 278-run win in the second match at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo on Monday.
The hard-working groundstaff, who had covered the entire field, tried to dry the surface but their efforts were hampered by overcast skies.
Bad weather has been forecast for the duration of the match, but India'a batting coach Sanjay Bangar predicted a “hard-fought” Test on what he said was a sporting wicket.
“We have hardly had one full session, so it is premature to even think of a result at this stage,” Bangar said. “This is going to be a really hard-fought and tight Test.
“We definitely want to bat well in the first session tomorrow and take it from there.
“It's a sporting wicket with a good grass cover on it. It is also hard underneath and I expect the ball to seam around throughout the game. It will make for challenging cricket.”
India lost second Test century-maker Lokesh Rahul off the second ball of the game, bowled by Dhammika Prasad with a sharp in-swinger that the batsman wanted to leave.
Ajinkya Rahane, who also scored a hundred in the previous match, made eight when he was given out leg-before off seamer Nuwan Pradeep in the fourth over.
India would have been in further trouble at 33-2 had debutant wicket-keeper Kusal Perera not dropped Kohli down the leg-side off Pradeep. The missed catch also cost the hosts five penalty runs as the ball hit a helmet lying behind the 'keeper.
The tourists were forced to make two changes for the series decider, replacing the injured duo of opener Murali Vijay and wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha with Pujara and 32-year-old debutant Naman Ojha.
Sri Lanka replaced the retired Kumar Sangakkara with another left-hander, Upul Tharanga, and also included Pradeep and Perera.
The hosts left out Jehan Mubarak and Dushmantha Chameera from the side which lost the second Test. – AFP
Original source: Rain spoils first day of final Test