India's spirited chase and then a scramble towards the finish line did not end in victory as New Zealand fast bowlers helped clinch the first Test by 40 runs on the fourth day on Sunday.
Chasing 407 for victory, India's bid to achieve the third highest successful fourth innings chase was led by opener Shikhar Dhawan, who struck 115, and Virat Kohli (67). The pair raised a 126-run third wicket partnership to raise Indian hopes as the visitors were 227 runs away from the target with eight wickets in hand at lunch.
However, left-arm paceman Neil Wagner provided the big breakthrough by having Kohli caught behind before the New Zealand pacers began chipping away with wickets. India lost three wickets for 46 runs as Kohli's dismissal was followed by those of Dhawan, who gloved a bouncer from Wagner, and Ajinkya Rahane, unlucky to be given out leg before despite a thick inside edge.
Reduced to 270 for six after Rohit Sharma's first ball dismissal after the tea interval, Dhoni decided to attack.
He and Ravindra Jadeja added 54 runs with a flurry of boundaries but the latter holed out a catch and with the tail for company, it proved a bridge too far in the end for Dhoni. India were all out for 366 late in the final session.
India have not won an overseas Test since their win at Jamaica in 2011. Since then they have lost 10 Tests and drawn three.
For New Zealand, Neil Wagner was heroic with his long spells, claiming four wickets in the second innings to finish with a match haul of eight. The experienced Tim Southee and Trent Boult claimed three wickets apiece.
Indian hopes were dealt a blow in the morning after Cheteshwar Pujara fell in the fifth over, caught behind off Southee. Wicketkeeper BJ Watling claimed six catches with a match haul of nine.
The second Test starts in Wellington on February 14.