The origin of Rajya Sabha can be traced back to 1919 when in pursuance to the Government of India Act, 1919, a second chamber known as the Council of States was created. This Council of States comprised of mostly by nominated members was a deformed version of second chamber without reflecting true federal features. The Council continued to function till India became independent. The issue of having a second chamber was deeply deliberated in the Constituent Assembly, and finally it was decided to have a second chamber the Council of States. The Rajya Sabha, its Hindi nomenclature was adopted in 23 August 1954.

The Rajya Sabha is to consist of not more than 250 members 238 members representing the States and Union Territories and 12 members nominated by the President. The seats are allocated to the federating units on the basis of their population. Therefore, the States and Union Territories do not have uniform number of seats as is the case with many other federal chambers. The representatives of each State are elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote. The minimum age for membership of the House is 30 years.

Rajya Sabha is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution. However, one third of the members retire every second year and are replaced by newly elected members. Each member is elected for a term of six years. The House was constituted for the first time on 3 April 1952. Its membership has changed over the years and its present membership is 245 as against 216 in 1952.

The Vice President of India is ex-officio Chairman of Rajya Sabha. The House also elects a Deputy Chairman from among its members. Besides, there is also a panel of "Vice Chairmen" in Rajya Sabha. The senior most Minister, who is a member of Rajya Sabha, is appointed by the Prime Minister as Leader of the House.