Chilling stress is one of the major abiotic stresses affecting chickpea productivity worldwide. This study evaluated the potential role of seed priming in improving resistance to chilling stress in chickpea (cv. Punjab, 2008). The priming treatments involved soaking seeds of chickpea cultivar Punjab 2008 in either water for 8 h (on-farm priming), aerated water (hydropriming) for 18 h, or CaCl2 solution (ψs −1.25 MPa; osmopriming) for 18 h. Primed and untreated seeds were grown either at 18/15 °C (control) or 13/10 °C (chilling stress). Chilling stress suppressed the growth of chickpea while seed priming mitigated the adverse effects of chilling stress by improving stand establishment, growth, water relations, photosynthesis, α-amylase activity, sugar metabolism, antioxidant enzyme activity, membrane stability, and leaf accumulation of proline, nitrogen, potassium and soluble phenolics. Seed priming also improved the performance of chickpea under optimal (control) conditions. The overall order of improvement in resistance to chilling by using seed priming was osmopriming > hydropriming > on-farm priming. Osmopriming improved seedling dry weight, specific leaf area, leaf CO2 net assimilation rate, maximal photochemical efficiency of PSII, α-amylase activity, trehalose content and leaf relative water content by 10, 22, 17, 20, 73, 48 and 7%, respectively, relative to the non-primed control under chilling stress. Under optimal temperature conditions, the corresponding values were 30, 32, 16, 10, 83, 75 and 5%, respectively. Sugar metabolism, especially trehalose content, was strongly linked with stand establishment, photosynthesis, antioxidant potential (under chilling stress) and plant biomass. Overall, seed priming improved chickpea performance under both optimal temperature conditions and chilling stress through better germination metabolism and the accumulation of trehalose, which protected from oxidative damage and helped to maintain carbon assimilation and seedling growth.