'It is the image of the woman which predominates in his work and for the most part she has been regarded from a deferential distance. There is a degree of idolization in his approach to the female form and like all idols it exudes an aura' (G. Kapur, ‘Maqbool Fida Husain: Folklore and Fiesta,’ Contemporary Indian Artists, Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 1978, p. 134).
Illustrated in Husain, the 1972 monograph by Richard Bartholomew and Shiv S. Kapur, Hajera depicts two women, illuminated in varying hues against monochromatic surroundings making them the focal point of this work. Husain paints them in reverence: the two women, one shielding her face with her ghunghat / veil, and the other sheltered by the woman in the foreground, appear to be guarding their modesty. A dark sun, another familiar theme in Husain’s early work dominates the background.
Husain creates a three-dimensional effect by his mosaic like application of paint. The colour palette in Hajera reveals the artist’s love for Indian miniatures- particularly Basholi, Malwa and Mewar schools. 'Husain loved the colour layout of these schools; the hot, bright colours, especially red and yellow (set off in the case of Malwa by blue-grey, chocolate brown and dull green), and their style of applying it flat over large areas…' (ibid., p. 139).
While the deconstruction of the main figure along multiple planes evokes a Cubist influence, the elegant stance of the women recalls traditional Indian dance forms seen in temple sculptures. This work is a profound example of Husain’s unique fusion of post-independence and Post-Impressionist painting: powerfully evocative of classic Indian plastic traditions and distinctly Modern at the same time.
Hajera is part of a legacy of Husain’s most significant paintings of women executed in the 1950s and 1960s- Blue Night (1959), Fatima (1960), Jhoola (1961), Nathani (1962), Dhoban (1963), Nartaki (1964), and Devdasi (1965). Between 1962 and 1965, Husain is said to have undergone two devastating experiences – one was the Indo-Pakistani war where he found himself subject to hostilities of the Hindu fanatics and the other was in Karbala, Iraq where he visited the scene of martyrdom of Imam Husain, the 7th century revolutionary leader who made the ultimate sacrifice for social justice in the face of corruption and tyranny. In wake of these unheroic and incredulous times, he found solace in his art in the form of women. “Man, in Husain’s view, is dynamic only in heroism. He is diminished by confusion and broken by disbelief… Spiritually, woman is more enduring. Pain comes naturally to her, as do compassion and a sense of birth and death of things. In Husain’s work, woman has the gift of eagerness… and inward attentiveness, as if she were listening to the life coursing within her” (R. Bartholomew and S. Kapur, Husain, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1972, p. 46).