Background Knowledge about symptoms and transmission of tuberculosis determines health seeking behavior and helps in prevention of tuberculosis transmission in the community. Such data is useful for policy makers to formulate information, education and communication strategies for tuberculosis control. Methods A secondary data analysis of India demographic and health survey, 2005/6 was carried out. Questions about self-reported tuberculosis, transmission and curability of tuberculosis were analysed. Correct knowledge (without misconceptions) about tuberculosis transmission was used as a dependant variable and the explanatory variables tested were: demographic data, education, wealth quintiles, frequency of exposure to media and the curability of tuberculosis. Determinants of correct knowledge without misconceptions were tested by univariate and multivariate analyses using national weighting factor to adjust for complex sampling design. Results A total of 109,070 households (response rate of 93.5%) and 198,718 participants (response rate of 91.6%) completed the survey. The samples of men and women interviewed were 74,360 and 124,358 respectively. Prevalence rate of self-reported tuberculosis was 445 per 100,000 usual household residents and 4.60 per 1,000 participants. The number of respondents who had “heard of an illness called tuberculosis” was 177,423 (89.3%). Of these 47,487 (26.8%) participants did not know and 55.5% knew about the correct mode of tuberculosis transmission i.e. “Through the air when coughing or sneezing”. The common misconceptions about transmission were “Through food” (32.4%), “Sharing utensils” (18.2%), and “Touching a person with tuberculosis” (12.3%). Only 52,617 (29.7%) participants had correct knowledge without misconceptions. Being male (aOR 1.17, 95% CIs 1.14, 1.21), being a Hindu (aOR 1.20, 95% CIs 1.14, 1.26) or Muslim (aOR 1.26, 95% CIs 1.18, 1.34), listening to radio (aOR 1.08, 95% CIs 1.04, 1.13) and “Tuberculosis can be cured” (aOR 1.47, 95% CIs 1.41, 1.53) were associated with correct knowledge without misconceptions. Conclusions Knowledge about tuberculosis transmission is very poor and misconceptions still exist. Among the traditional mass media, the frequency of listening to radio was associated with correct knowledge about tuberculosis transmission. Strategies to deliver information, education and communication campaigns could be improved.