Both players agreed to draw after 16 moves each to remain even at the start of the big-money 12-game showpiece watched by a select gathering of 350 inside the main hall of a luxury hotel and by thousands on live television.
Anand, 43, has been the game's undisputed champion since 2007, but experts predict the end of the road for the Indian against current world number one Carlsen, who is 21 years younger.
"I am happy, it was a fairly comfortable draw with black," said Anand. "But there is a long way to go and it is very difficult to predict what will happen over the next 11 games."
Carlsen also appeared satisfied with a draw despite the advantage of playing first with white. "In the past, I have played a couple of embarrassing draws with white, so this was okay," he said. "No damage done."
The second game will be held . All the games are taking place in Chennai — Anand's home town.
With one point awarded for a win and half a point for a draw, the first man to reach 6.5 points will be declared the champion.
If points are equal after the 12th game on , the match will be decided by a sudden-death game on .
The total prize fund for the title clash is approximately $2.24 million, with the winner getting 60 percent and the loser taking home the rest.
Russian grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik, who lost to Anand in the 2008 title showdown, said the Indian will find it tough to retain the title against the aggressive Carlsen.
"Carlsen has much more energy, more motivation, as he has not been a world champion yet," Kramnik was quoted as saying by the Times of India.
"Anand is somewhat intimidated by Carlsen. He has not been confident playing against him — he's scared of him, I would say."
Asked at a pre-match media conference if he was the favourite, Carlsen said: "I don't know who the favourite is. In general, I expect to do well in tournaments I play in.
"If I manage to play my best, I can expect the best results."
Anand, who remains one of the most popular sports figures in cricket-mad India, and his opponent enjoyed a remarkably similar rise in their careers since they were talented teenagers.
Anand became an international master at 15, was crowned Indian champion at 16, won the world junior title at 17 and became the country's first grandmaster at 18.
Carlsen turned grandmaster at 13 and in 2010, aged 19, he became the youngest player in history to be ranked world number one. He won the Candidates Tournament this year to earn the right to challenge Anand.
The Indian, who is based in Spain with his wife and young son, trails the challenger by a whopping 95 rating points and his world ranking has tumbled from number one to eight.