Kartabhaja a minor, but quite influential, cult originating from vaisnavism and sufism in the eighteenth century. The original guru of the Kartabhaja cult was awul chand (c 1694-1770 AD). It is not clear whether he was a Muslim or Hindu. His name 'Awul' (a branch of baul sufism) suggests that he was a Muslim. But he himself never made it clear whether he was a Muslim or Hindu.

Awul's early life is obscure. According to legend, in the village of Ula in 24-Parganas, a new-born baby was found in a pan field, belonging to a man named Mahadev Barui. Mahadev Barui took the child home and raised it. When the boy grew up, he left home and became a wandering mendicant, coming to be known as Awul Chand.

Awul called the supreme being Karta (not Isvar or Khuda). Music was his main form of worship. He called upon his followers to worship Karta. Accordingly, the sect was called Kartabhaja. The great majority of the followers of Awul Chand were Hindu, and they venerated him as an incarnation of sri chaitanya. The sect does not recognise any differences between religions or the sexes.

The Kartabhaja sect became popular in kolkata , 24-Parganas, sundarbans and sylhet. Joynarayan Ghoshal of Bhukailash (Kolkata)-a banianS, a lyricist and a nouveau riche zamindar-was a follower of the Kartabhaja sect. So were the great Kaviyals of the time such as Andiram, Kanai Ghosh, Krishna Das, Nidhiram Ghosh, Panch Kari (Panchurui Das), and Manuhar Das.

The cult flourished in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. However, in the early twentieth century its following declined under the impact of the Hindu and Muslim reformist movements. [Sirajul Islam]

See also folk sects.