Manipur Maharaj & House of Lords
Manipur Maharaj is entering India's House of Lords if elected on 26 March by the electoral college consisting of sixty MLAs (including defectors) of our Assembly. If elected he will be the first Manipuri Monarch to become a member of Rajya Sabha or the Upper House of Indian Parliament. Though Rajya Sabha and the House of Lords are not synonymous, they are similar in many ways.
The British Parliament is bicameral that means it has two Houses namely the House of Lords and House of Commons. The House of Lords originated in the 11th Century when the King constituted the Witans (Council) composed of religious and political advisors. In 1215 under Magna Carta the Barons (wealthied and landed nobility) became King's Consultants on State affairs in the General Council. By 13th and 14th century it emerged as a distinct element of British Parliament.
However the earliest beginning of Anglo-Saxon Council (Witans type) may be traced as early as the 8th century England.The Witans were a small council of clergyman, landlords, barons and other advisors appointed by the King to deal with State matters, taxation and political issues.
In the year 1911 & 1943 by the Acts of British Parliament the House of Commons has 650 Members and the House of Lords though has no fix number the composition of Peerage (heredity nobility) is fixed at 90.
In ancient India during the Vedic period ( 1500- 500 BCE) there were two Councils/Assemblies called Sabha and Samiti. They used to run the affairs of the then society and used to advised the King (Rajan). They also defined the power and function of the King. Basically Sabha performed judicial and administrative functions. Whereas Samiti dealt with religious matters pertaining to ceremonies and prayers. In the later years Samiti became more powerful and perhaps they elected the King (Rajan).
The present Indian Parliament is also bicameral. It has two Houses - Upper House and Lower House. The Upper House is known as Rajya Sabha and the Lower House is known as Lok Sabha .Many say that we borrowed the British Westminster System of Parliamentary democracy. In the modern context they may be right. But considering the ancient Indian institutions like Sabha and Samiti, the bicameral system of administration in the present Indian Parliament may be seen as a replica of the ancient Indian political system. Those who believe in the glory of our ancient past would like to say that democracy in India is as old as the Cholas and the Vedic period. Athenian democracy was contemporary to our democracy.
Whether erudites might agree or not Manipur was also a highly classless democratic society. Before the advent of formal monarchial establishment in circa 33 AD the Manipuri society was absolutely egalitarian despite having constant power struggle amongst the clans and tribes. The successful establishment of Kingship in the 1st century marked the beginning of a new era.
Manipur remained an independent Kingdom all through its history except for the Burmese occupation for 7 years and British Rule for 56 years. Manipur once again became an independent Kingdom in 1947. A kind of a monarchical democracy was set up with an Independent Assembly (Parliament). This political system existed till Oct 1949 when it became a part of Independent India.
Whether Maharaj of Manipur has political power or not he still commands respect from the people of Manipur. Crown's social, cultural and customary position is still in vogue and revered.
Maharaj is an institution in itself. The Crown of Manipur has a 2000 years long eventful history. Pride and glory of the land was/is associated with it.
By politically empowering the incumbent Maharaj, the futuristic thinkers or leaders may like to revive and rejuvenate the age old traditional pride of each and every part of this vast sub-continent for further consolidation and integration within the existing democratic political set-up. This is my reading and what is yours?