Lower birthweight, and rapid childhood weight gain predict elevated cardiovascular risk factors in children. We examined associations between serial, detailed, anthropometric measurements from birth to 9.5 years of age and cardiovascular risk markers in Indian children. Children (n = 663) born at the Holdsworth Memorial Hospital, Mysore, India were measured at birth and 6–12 monthly thereafter. At 9.5 years, 539 (255 boys) underwent a 2-h oral glucose tolerance test, and blood pressure (BP) and fasting lipid concentrations were measured. Insulin resistance was calculated using the HOMA equation. These outcomes were examined in relation to birth measurements and changes in measurements (growth) during infancy (0–2 years), 2–5 years and 5–9.5 years using conditional s.d. scores. Larger current weight, height and skinfold thickness were associated with higher risk markers at 9.5 years (P < 0.05). Lower weight, smaller length and mid-arm circumference at birth were associated with higher fasting glucose concentrations at 9.5 years (P ⩽ 0.01). After adjusting for current weight/height, there were inverse associations between birthweight and/or length and insulin concentrations, HOMA, systolic and diastolic BP and plasma triglycerides (P < 0.05). Increases in conditional weight and height between 0–2, 2–5 and 5–9.5 years were associated with higher insulin concentrations, HOMA and systolic BP. In conclusion, in 9–10-year-old Indian children, as in other studies, cardiovascular risk factors were highest in children who were light or short at birth but heavy or tall at 9 years. Greater infant and childhood weight and height gain were associated with higher risk markers.