Behind every right there is a duty. And when a person has more rights than others, then that would mean he has more responsibilities too.
A king, whose word was law, commanded the respect of everyone, even if the king happened to be young. But his power also meant that his responsibilities were greater, and the rules laid down for him were that much more stringent. Tamil Sangam literature talks of the duties of a ruler, said M. Elangovan, in a lecture.
It is laid down that a king should promote knowledge that is required for the welfare of his subjects. In those days, what was required for the prosperity of the land, was good yield from agriculture. So the king had to seek out experts in the field and take their advice.
If the elders in the agricultural community did not have the requisite knowledge, but someone much younger in age did, then he would have to approach this person for advice and help with regard to cultivation in the country.
There is a verse in the Thirukkural that speaks of how a person should seek knowledge. One must approach the teacher or instructor humbly. The attitude of the seeker must be one of humility. He must be as humble in his approach as a beggar would be with a rich man.
The scholar is the rich man from whom one seeks the wealth of knowledge. One must therefore be suitably modest. So even if a king were to seek the advice of a person, the king had to be humble and respectful towards the one whose advice was sought. The one who is a repository of knowledge is worthy of respect at all times.
All this is evidence of the high regard that was accorded to learned men in the past. Knowledge was sought not with a view to merely making money, but it was sought for its own sake. When we seek knowledge, it must not only to find a suitable job and to have material prosperity, but we must seek knowledge for knowledge's sake.
He who values knowledge for its own sake, stands to benefit in the long run. Instant results are not lasting. If even kings had to bow before those with knowledge, it becomes evident that nothing can equal knowledge, not even power.