DNA methylation governs gene regulation in plants in response to environmental conditions. Here, we analyzed role of DNA methylation under desiccation and salinity stresses in three (IR64, stress-sensitive; Nagina 22, drought-tolerant and Pokkali, salinity-tolerant) rice cultivars via bisulphite sequencing. Methylation in CG context within gene body and methylation in CHH context in distal promoter regions were positively correlated with gene expression. Hypomethylation in Nagina 22 and hypermethylation in Pokkali in response to desiccation and salinity stresses, respectively, were correlated with higher expression of few abiotic stress response related genes. Most of the differentially methylated and differentially expressed genes (DMR-DEGs) were cultivar-specific, suggesting an important role of DNA methylation in abiotic stress responses in rice in cultivar-specific manner. DMR-DEGs harboring differentially methylated cytosines due to DNA polymorphisms between the sensitive and tolerant cultivars in their promoter regions and/or coding regions were identified, suggesting the role of epialleles in abiotic stress responses. © 2020 Elsevier Inc.