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CHETRAMIAS, a cult of saint worship incorporating elements from Christianity, Vaisnavism and Sufism founded by one Chet Ram (1835-94), an Arora Hindu of the village of Sharakpur in present day Sheikhupura district of Pakistan. Almost illiterate, Chet Ram was neither a saint nor a Sufi. He was a camp follower in the second Chinese war (1858-60), and on his discharge returned to India to settle down at Buchchoke where he got married and started dealing in opium and liquor.

He came in contact with a Muslim Jalali faqir, named Mahbub Shah, a man with eclectic views who had a fascination for Christianity. Mahbub Shah died around the year 1865 at Buchchoke, and his tomb became a place of pilgrimage for the local populace.Chet Ram also had been a regular visitor to the tomb until one night he is said to have had a vision of Jesus Christ commanding him to build a church over the tomb. He composed a poem in Punjabi to recapture the glory of the vision he had had.

At the church constructed at Mahbub Shah`s tomb he unfolded his mission acknowledging the supremacy of Christ. Chet Ram attracted a small following and before his death, he named his daughter his successor and head of the sect. The daughter shifted the headquarters of the sect from Buchchoke to Lahore, near the Badshahi mosque, though the sanctuary at Buchchoke remained the main centre of the sect.Another disciple of some importance was one Munshi Nattha who expounded the doctrines of Chet Ram through his poetical compositions.

The creed of the sect revolved around a vaguely defined principle of trinity in which figured Allah, Parmesvara and Khuda as creator, preserver and destroyer, respectively. The Bible was the sect`s scripture but, since most of the adherents were illiterate, they hung it round their necks without understanding its contents. They carried a cross hung upon on a rod on which was inscribed the confession of their faith. The church service comprised recitation of the verses of Chet Ram with lamps lighted before the cross and the Bible.

Two ethical principles stressed were philanthropy and fortitude in face of persecution. The novitiates had to undergo baptism, the monks among them having to tear off at the ceremony their clothes and cast dust upon their heads. The monks acted as missionaries and subsisted on alms. Never large in numbers, the sect had its adherents mainly in the districts of FIrozpur, Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Montgomery. Many of them later converted to Sikhism.

References:

1. The Census Reports, 1891, 1901, and 1911.
2. Farquhar,J.N., Modern Religious Movements. Delhi, 1977
3. Rose, H.A., comp., A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. Lahore, 1911-1919

1832

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