Maqbool Fida Husain's Ritual is profoundly Indian in scope by referring to traditional sculptural forms, hinting at the colors and structure of miniature painting and drawing from the vibrancy of folk art while at the same time tying village and pastoral themes to those of Indian mythology. This painting is all at once a powerful fusion of Indian themes and Modernist style and one of the most significant works by Husain.
In the late sixties Husain embarked on a tour throughout India and was heavily inspired by village life which he idealized as being close to the essence of Indian sensibility. Building upon the themes he expressed in his landmark work, Zameen; the present work moves beyond expression of sentiment to show Husain's admiration for women at the most basic levels of society who often predominate village and home affairs. While not quite a panchayat scene, the women are charged with organizing and maintaining religious festivals and their attendant rituals throughout the year.
Depicting a chorus of female elders and experimenting with form, color and surface, Husain has used spontaneous yet forceful brushstrokes to explore a traditional ritual context on a large scale. Imbued with a deep respect for the archetypal Mother figure, Ritual at first glance comprises a simplified block-like construction and centers on a group of women who are simultaneously interconnected, yet powerfully separate entities. Upon closer inspection these figures radiate patriotic sentiment and each represents Mother India in her various guises. The rooster, symbolizing the traditional village and the hand in the protective gesture of abhaya mudra, become recurrent motifs throughout Husain's career.