It is customary for all states to participate in the Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi with colourful floats and tableaux. The best float is awarded a prize by the President. Usually, this is a tame affair with babus  from the states supervising the making of the floats which cover such exciting themes like the Indira Awas Yojana, Rajiv Drinking Water Mission and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme!
However, this year the tableau presented by Karnataka Government drew flak. It showed Tipu Sultan with a drawn sword. There were strong protests from some who consider Tipu a communalist who tried to destroy Hinduism and Christianity in parts of Mysore and Malabar. There were equally strident voices describing Tipu as a patriot who dared to take on the might of the East India Company and had even struck up an alliance with the French government. 
The Mysore invasion had seen the beginning of the end of the Zamorins of Calicut. Arguably, the Zamorin was himself responsible for his plight, as Palghat Raja had to invite Haider Ali in 1756 to protect his kingdom from the expansionist ambitions of the Zamorin. The Zamorin had to retreat and promise to pay the Mysore army a sum of Rs.12 lakhs as reparation.
Hyder ascended the Mysore throne in 1761 and one of his first acts was to march to Malabar where he was assisted by the Ali Raja of Kannur to subjugate the local rulers of Neeleswaram and Kadathanad before marching to Calicut. The Zamorin who had promised the war reparation of Rs.12 lakhs had passed away and the new ruler was not a particularly strong person and enjoyed little local support among the royal family (as he had been adopted from Neeleswaram and was looked upon as an 'outsider'). Nevertheless, he tried to ward off Haider's invasion by negotiating peace in the Eralpad's palace at Ananthapuram (Panthalayini-Kollam). He even offered all his treasures and property, but Haider would not settle for less than a crore of Rupees as penalty for the default in payment of war reparation. When negotiations failed, the Zamorin had to set fire to his arsenal in Kottapparamba Palace and commit suicide, after sending off the family to Travancore.
 Haider felt cheated and decided to recover his ransom by looting temples in Malabar between Calicut and Ponnani. He then retreated to Mysore after appointing Madanna, one of his experienced revenue officers as the civil administrator with headquarters at Calicut. 
Many a Malabar temple was destroyed by Haider and his forces, ably supported by the forces of Arakkal Raja. Traditional accounts of this rampage attributes religious motives; in fact Tipu's campaigns would clearly show that he behaved as a religious fanatic in his mission of converting as many Hindus to Islam as his army could lay their hands on. But, was Haider Ali also a fanatic? 
Many historians of Malabar would affirm that all the temple destruction could only mean one thing - that he wanted to destroy Hinduism systematically.
The period between 1755 and 1780 was one of extreme disturbance and mayhem as far as Malabar was concerned. It had not seen peace ever since the Zamorin's ill-advised march against the Palghat Raja. It culminated in the suicide of the most powerful ruler of the region. While opinions - often coloured by caste/religious/ ideological prejudice - can differ, eye witness accounts seldom deviate from the facts.
Fortunately, we have such an eye witness account in the manuscript now known as 'Vella's History'. Vella Namboodiri was born in 1709 on the southern bank of the Bharathappuzha. His illam finds mention in the Keralolpathi and must have been one of the ancient Namboodiri families. He was one of the ooralars of the Panniyur Varahamoorthy Temple. He witnessed Hyder's first invasion when he was around 55  years, although he committed his story in writing later when he was around 70 or so. However, he records the events graphically and with the objectivity of a historian.
Zamorin had presided over the Mamankam which was held in 1765 Dec-1766 January. This was conducted under the shadow of foreign invasion, as the Calicut ruler and his advisers knew of the impending attack by Haider. Zamorin appointed one Kaalatt Gopala Pisharoti as the Thalachennavar  of Ponnani and got ready for the inevitable showdown with the Paradeshi.
We get a pen portrait of Hyder from Vella namboodiri who called on the 'Nabhav' (as he described Hyder) when the invader was camping at Trikkavu Temple. He gives a graphic account of his first meeting: the Nabhav was standing near the well inside the quadrangle of the Trikkav Temple facing east, his one leg resting on a stone. He was wearing a headdress, coat and trousers of superior cloth. A stone-studded ring shone on the little finger of his right hand. When Vella approaches him and salutes, he returns the greetings. Nabhav leads Vella to the southern courtyard of the temple where a place has been decorated with clothes and cushions. Nabhav asks Vella to be seated with him on the dais. Then they converse on various topics, with Hyder asking searching questions on how much wealth the neighbouring temples had and where the wealth was hidden.
After the conversation which lasted for more than an hour (three nazhikas, according to Vella), Hyder sends him off with a gift of clothes, a bundle of betel leaves and an arecanut. He also arranges for the escort of Vella to his illam in Thirunavaya.
According to Vella, what irked Hyder was the revolt which some Nairs and the young princes of the Zamorin palaces had engineered as soon as Hyder had departed from Ponnani. On Hyder's return trip, he was ruthless with the men who had led the revolt and their properties. He also pillaged the temples, including the Thirunavaya temple, although Panniyur temple was spared.
What is striking in Vella's account is that he clearly states that on his first visit, Hyder's objective was only to recover the amount of reparations that the Zamorin had promised him. He had been cheated out of this by the Zamorin ending his life. He was left with no alternative but to plunder the temple wealth to make good the promised amount.  But the foolish acts of Zamorin's descendants in attcking Mysore army when Hyder had left the territory in the care of Madanna, had incensed Hyder no end. His second trip was, thus, to wreak vengeance on the rebels. In a striking statement displaying the objectivity of a historian, Vella comments: One does not know who is to be blamed for all this disaster! He does not rush to judge events and people.
Vella's History is a landmark not only in Kerala's historical records but also of Malayalam prose. Traditionally, the origin of Malayalam prose is attributed to the Christian missionaries who had published extensive evangelical literature. However, all this was at least 70 years after Vella's History. The quality of the prose and directness of his style set apart Vella's work not only from the early evangelical literature with its strained translation of English into Malayalam, but of some of the later prose writings of Kerala writers.
We owe this discovery of Kerala's pioneering historian to Sri M.T. Narayanan Nair (the elder brother of writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair who had retained a manuscript copy of Vella's History. The credit for compiling and publishing this work goes to the eminent toponymist and Malayalam professor, Dr. N.M. Namboodiri. Regrettably, no English translation of the work has been attempted so far. We sincerely hope that the publishers (Vallathol Vidya Peetham) will make available an English translation for the benefit of wider national and international audience.