In emergencies, when there is a scarcity of labor, they are induced to work on tea estates, or at road mending; but the habits of vagabondage are too rooted to allow their remaining long in useful employment. Superior in every way to their men, the Rodiya women are the most beautiful in all Ceylon. Their scantiness of raiment, it is pleaded in their behalf, is due in no sense to immodesty.
Some benefit is claimed as a result of the efforts of the English women but the majesty and power of Great Britain are puny institutions compared with the force of caste among native races. To keep down the Rodiya population a certain Kandyan king, it is stated on good authority, used to have a goodly number of them shot each year.
Representatives of the Rodiya caste may be seen any day by pedestrians in the city's outskirts. There are not many of them, fortunately perhaps a thousand all told. Tradition has it that hundreds of years ago a vengeful monarch condemned their race to never-ending degradation for having supplied the royal table with human flesh instead of venison.
British rule in Asia recognizes no caste distinctions, but it has been a humane work of the wives of several English governors of Ceylon to seek to improve the position of the women of the Rodiya caste, especially of the young girls.
Rodiya girls wander the country as dancers and jugglers, and their erect figures, elastic step, and regalness of carriage, would be envied by the proudest woman promenading Vanity Fair; some of them have faces so perfect in a classic way that a sculptor or painter might make himself famous by reproducing them.