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According to the Rig Veda Anukramani, the seer of Mandala 7 of the Rig Veda is the sage Vashishta, and in the following verse from Mandala 7, Vasishta addresses Vishnu:

What was there to be blamed in thee, O Viṣṇu, when thou declaredst, I am Sipivista? Hide not this form from us, nor keep it secret, since thou didst wear another shape in battle.

Sipivista means either bald or infused with the sun's rays, but my question is, what is the form being referred to when it says "another shape", and what battle is it referring to? I think I have an answer to the second question; this verse recurs in Book 8 Chapter 1 Hymn 4 of the Sama Veda, and Sayana's commentary for that hymn says this:

Vishnu formerly abandoned his own form, and assuming another artificial shape, succourred Vasishtha in battle. Recognizing the god, the Rishi addresses him with the verse.

There's only one battle Vasishta is known for - the famous Battle of Ten Kings (AKA the Dasarajna), where the Bharata king Sudas defeated a powerful alliance of many kings. The Bharatas were successful in taking over India, which is why we call India Bharata-Varsha today. In any case, Vasishtha, who was Sudas' guru at the time, was instrumental in his victory, because he was able to get the gods, particularly Indra and Varuna, to participate in the battle on the side of Sudas.

So it looks like Vasishta got the assistance of Vishnu as well, which wouldn't be surprising as Vishnu and Indra are often closely associated (since Vishnu's incarnation Vamana is Indra's little brother). So the question remains, what's the alternate form that Vishnu assumed in the Battle of Ten Kings? Are there any other scriptures that describe Vishnu's role in this battle?

  • You mean to say that vishnu favours indra since he is younger to him as son of aditi in his vamana avatar? – Yogi Dec 26 '15 at 14:38
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    Yeah, Indra and Vamana fought a lot of battles together because they were brothers. That's why there are a lot of joint hymns in the Vedas to Indra and Vishnu. By the way, it should be noted that the causation runs somewhat in the other direction; it's out of a desire to help Indra that Vishnu was born as Vamana in the first place. – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 26 '15 at 15:49
  • but isn't it a wrong thing for god to favour indra instead of king bali who was more deserving and powerful than him? – Yogi Dec 26 '15 at 18:10
  • Didn't Vishwamitra lead the winning alliance? – Naveen Jun 20 '16 at 4:34
  • @Naveen No, I think Vishwamitra was the priest of the alliance of ten kings, who lost the battle, whereas Vasishta was the priest of Sudas and his army. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 20 '16 at 5:29
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Rig Veda VII.99.4 & 5 describes Vishnu battling with Dasa, Sambara and Varcin.

  1. Ye have made spacious room for sacrificing by generating Sūrya, Dawn, and Agni. O Heroes, ye have conquered in your battles even the bull-jawed Dāsa's wiles and magic.

  2. Ye have destroyed, thou, Indra, and thou Visnu, Sambara's nine-and-ninety fenced castles. Ye Twain smote down a hundred times a thousand resistless heroes of the royal Varcin.

In respect of the mantra in question in Rig Veda, Sayana did not make any comment, but on the same mantra in Sama veda he made commentary as follows:

Vishnu formerly abandoned his own form, and assuming another artificial shape, succourred Vasishtha in battle. Recognizing the god, the Rishi addresses him with the verse.

Sayana belongs to 14th centuary and thus might have been influenced by Puranas and made the above commentary on the mantra in question from Sama Veda.

This may not be linked to the battle of 10 kings.

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