Bats are known to be reservoirs of several medically important viruses including lyssaviruses. However, no systematic surveillance for bat rabies has been carried out in India, a canine rabies endemic country with a high burden of human rabies. Surveillance for rabies virus (RABV) infection in bats was therefore carried out in Nagaland, a north-eastern state in India at sites with intense human–bat interfaces during traditional bat harvests. Brain tissues and sera from bats were tested for evidence of infection due to RABV. Brain tissues were subjected to the fluorescent antibody test for detection of viral antigen and real-time reverse transcriptase PCR for presence of viral RNA. Bat sera were tested for the presence of rabies neutralizing antibodies by the rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test. None of the bat brains tested (n = 164) were positive for viral antigen or viral RNA. However, rabies neutralizing antibodies were detected in 4/78 (5·1%) bat sera tested, suggesting prior exposure to RABV or related lyssaviruses. The serological evidence of lyssaviral infection in Indian bats may have important implications in disease transmission and rabies control measures, and warrant extensive bat surveillance to better define the prevalence of lyssaviral infection in bats.