Listening is one of the best ways to learn. That is why Thiruvalluvar hailed the art of listening as the best wealth to possess, said D. Gnanasundaram in a discourse.
Thiruvalluvar gave us many such truths in the simplest of words. The Thirukkural has an appeal that goes beyond the boundaries of Tamil Nadu. It has appealed to many non-Tamilians and even to foreigners. Gandhiji and Tolstoy were two eminent persons who were impressed by it. Such is the wisdom that one sees in its verses, one of which speaks about the importance of listening.
Thiruvalluvar says one should study, but that if that were not possible, then one should listen. Thus, he sees listening as the closest to studying. Listening familiarises us with many things we would not otherwise have read.
How important listening is can be seen from the fact that there are references to the Ramayana in many ancient Tamil works. Not all the authors of these works would have been familiar with Sanskrit, and probably had not read the original work of Valmiki. The chances are that they had heard portions of the Ramayana being recited.
In Manimekalai, there is a character known as Kayasandigai. She steps on the food of a sage, who has been fasting for many years. He curses Kayasandigai and says she should suffer from insatiable perennial hunger. From then on, no matter what she eats, Kayasandigai is always hungry. Manimekalai author Seethalai Sathanar wrote that just as the ocean swallowed all the rocks and sticks that monkeys brought to build a bridge to Lanka for Rama to cross over, so did Kayasandigai’s stomach swallow up food.
Ilango Adigal in his Silappadikaram said the city of Puhar suffered because of the absence of Kovalan, just as Ayodhya suffered in the absence of Rama.
There are many such references to the Ramayana in Sangam literature. The authors must have picked up the story by listening to it being elaborated by someone. Thus, it was listening that supplied them with facts from the Ramayana. That is why Thiruvalluvar gave listening such importance.