BBC News Online assesses the winners and losers on a dramatic day in India's electoral history:
It was a good day to be a Congress supporter
The Italian-born widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has been the butt of continuing derision from her opponents because of her foreign origins.
But her Congress party-led alliance inflicted a shock defeat on the Hindu nationalist BJP and its allies. She then surprised everyone by renouncing the post of prime minister, and nominated a close party ally, Manmohan Singh, instead.
Atal Behari Vajpayee
Mr Vajpayee called India's elections six months early, but the bold move boomeranged.
The general election defeat may have put the lights out on the twilight of his political career - Mr Vajpayee has now made way for his hardline deputy, LK Advani, to be leader of the opposition.
Voting machines were not the disaster that some feared
Electronic voting machines
India's first all-electronic general election has been a triumph, with results in within hours, instead of days thanks to a computerised army of one million voting machines.
There were some minor glitches during voting days. But technicians worked overtime to make the poll go smoothly in the world's largest democracy where most of the 668 million eligible voters in 543 constituencies are still poor, rural workers.
Mr Vajpayee's party spin doctors coined the phrase "India Shining" as a reference to what they said was a feel-good factor sweeping the country.
But it turned out that voters in a country where a third live on less than $1 a day were less than impressed, giving the BJP a metaphorical 'shiner' at the ballot boxes.
The entry of Sonia Gandhi's son energised the Congress campaign - he won by over 100,000 votes in the constituency of Amethi in north India, a seat once held by his father.
APJ Abdul Kalam
After accepting the resignation of his prime minister, India's president faced a difficult legal decision over who should be asked to form the next administration following a hung parliament. But Congress was able to provide evidence of the necessary support from allies and leads the government which was sworn in.
Govinda was won of several Bollywood stars to triumph
One of the most prominent Bollywood stars to triumph was a stand-up comedian Govinda of the Congress party, who defeated India's Petroleum Minister Ram Naik, a BJP heavyweight, in a Bombay constituency.
The foreign minister and NDA heavyweight lost his home seat of Hazaribagh in Jharkhand.
Age did not weary Mr Veerappa
India's oldest candidate, 94 years old, won the reserved Bidar constituency for a successive fifth term to parliament. The veteran of the BJP won by a margin of 23,000 votes over his Congress rival. Mr Veerappa campaigned vigorously in the elections despite his age and is now recuperating at a hospital.
The Tamil Nadu chief minister appeared to have alienated herself from her people. The strong electoral alliance cobbled by the DMK president, Mr Karunanidhi, and the anti-incumbency all worked against her AIADMK party.