Maha Shivrathri and Indus seal

                               Maha Shivratri is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in reverence of Lord Shiva. Shivaratri literally means the great night of Shiva or the night of Shiva. It is celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day of the Maagha or Phalguna month of the Hindu calendar.
 (20 th Feb in the year 2012)
(Sun in Aquarius constellation
 and Moon in Capricorn constellation)
(Krishna Paksha (waning moon)

                                 Since many different calendars are followed by various ethno-linguistic groups of India, the month and the Tithi name are not uniform all over India.  Celebrated in the dark fortnight or Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Maagha according to the Shalivahana or Gujarati Vikrama or Phalguna according to the Vikrama era. The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael or Bilva/Vilvam leaves to Lord Shiva, all-day fasting and an all-night-long vigil. In accordance with scriptural and discipleship traditions, penances are performed in order to gain boons in the practice of Yoga and meditation. 

Explanation in my book

                              All of you must be knowing very well about the story of Maha Shivrathri. I have explained in my book the source from which this story developed. I reproduce the relevant portion for your easy ready reference here. (CHAPTER-12 IN THE BOOK)

Linga worship
                               Linga worship is popular in Shiva temples of today. Scholars are divided in their opinion about Linga worship at Indus culture. Practically there is not much physical evidence and no phallic stone had been recovered. But it is a common practice in megalithic culture that, a phallic stone is placed over grave of a male person and a ring stone is placed over the grave of a female person to identify the sex of the venerated ancestor. Hence it can safely be assumed that such a practice was there in Indus culture also.

Proto-Shiva and Orin constellation 

                            In addition to that note importance given to male organ in the “proto-Shiva” seal, the Orion’s belt is one of the easily identifiable three stars in Orion constellations. The three stars of Orion belt correspond with the groin of Proto Shiva.
It looks like that Linga was venerated as a heavenly symbol as a mark of identification of Orion constellation, which was important in determining the beginning of a new year along with Dog star (Sirius) constellation. 

Parallels in mythological stories
                          There are always two parallels in mythological stories first the heavenly one and the second earthly one. The male organ of proto Shiva is heavenly representation and linga is the earthly representation in temples. (Or) The linga may be indicating the most important star of the sky the Aldebaran. Consider the bull (Nandi) in knelt down position before linga in Shiva temples. This is the same scene in heaven, wherein the bull constellation (Taurus) is located just front of the star Aldebaran.

Observational history
Sirius, known in ancient Egypt as Sopdet (Greek = Sothis), is recorded in the earliest astronomical records. During the era of the Middle Kingdom, Egyptians based their calendar on the heliacal rising of Sirius, namely the day it becomes visible just before sunrise after moving far enough away from the glare of the Sun. This occurred just before the annual flooding of the Nile and the summer solstice, after a 70-day absence from the skies. The hieroglyph for Sothis features a star and a triangle. Sothis was identified with the great goddess Isis, who formed a part of a triad with her husband Osiris and their son Horus, while the 70-day period symbolised the passing of Isis and Osiris through the duat (Egyptian underworld).

 The ancient Egyptian Calendar

                        In the ancient Egyptian calendar, the beginning of the year (called the opening year), was marked by the Sirius star in the Canis Major constellation. The Constellation appeared around June 21st and this event was called “climbing of the goddess Sothis”. Sirius Star was visible just before sunrise and it is still one of the brightest stars in the sky, being located in the lower left of Orion and representing the dog’s nose in the constellation Canis Major

Hunter on the tree and tiger below

                        This seal is the different version of the yogi seal described in other pages of this book. The change is that the yogi has become the hunter. Now the same constellations combine is depicted as tree, man and tiger. Tiger is the common link here. The myth of tiger and hunter on Shiv-rathri day should be recollected here. Story of Shiv-rathri is important in Hindu point of view. Many of them follow the rituals on this important day. 

                          The story goes in the following way. A hunter goes on a hunting trip into a forest and is chased by a tiger, to escape from the animal, hunter climbs a tree and waits for the animal to go away. But the tiger decides other wise and stays put on the same place; down below the tree. With no other option in his hands, the hunter decides to stay on the tree over night. To keep himself awake, the hunter plucks leaves of the tree and throws down on the tiger wishing that it will go away. The whole night passes in this way, and in the early morning light hunter notices that the tiger has disappeared but there was a Shiv-lingam on that place instead of the tiger. The hunter feels that Shiva himself had come in the form of tiger to show the importance of Shiv-lingam of that place as well as the importance of the tree; Vilvam tree (Aegle marmelos tree (or) wood apple tree).

                               As described in other myths, there are two events in the story, one heavenly event and other earthly event. The earthly event has already been described. The heavenly event is that it is the heliacal raising of the Canis Major, which indicated the beginning of the New Year. Devote Hindus spend the whole night fasting and praying to Shiva. In ancient Egypt, a priest was assigned with special task of watching every night to spot the arising of dog-star. Even now Hindus are following the very same old custom, and carry out the special duty assigned to the priest without understanding the meaning behind the ritual.

Additional observations

                           I was under the Impression that the heliacal rising of "Canis Major" was indicated in the above shown Indus seal. However, the month of heliacal rising of Canis Major and "Shivrathri" did not tally so far. Now, i have found the reason for this discrepancy. Ancient Egyptians are talking about rising Canis Major at heliacal rising, where as Indus Astronomer priest is talking about setting down of Canis Major from visibility point of view. 

                            Viewing the Dog star at "Stellarium" planetary software shows that the "Dog Star" disappears from visible horizon in the month of February, which actually coincides with "Maha shivrathri Day". Mahashivrathri day occurred on February 20 in this year (i.e.2012). 

                            Another important point to be noted here is that , the narration shows that the Tiger disappears in the early morning (Canis Major disappears in western side in the early morning not in Eastern side ---i.e. heliacal rising side) and shiv-lingam appears. This story coincides with the fact that "Canis Major" disappears from horizon and what is visible is the "Shiv-lingam"(male organ) of Kalan in the Eastern side (Heliacal rising). Male organ (Shiv-lingam of Kalan) of Kalan coincides with Aquila constellation (Eagle constellation) (Shravana Nakshatra). Refer to Jyotisha Vedanga Table
Sabarimalai --Ayyappan--Festival 

                        The pilgrimage begins in the month of November and ends in January.  The shrine gets thronged with devotees especially during the main pilgrim season from November to January. Mandala pooja (December12,2011) and Makaravilakku (Jan.15th,2012) are the two main events of the pilgrim season. The temple stays closed during the rest of the year except for the first five days of every Malayalam month and during Vishu (April). 

                        The worship of God Ayyappa also coincides with this event of shiv rathri. The final important day of Ayyappa worship falls on January 15th , which is called "Mahara Vilakku", which is nothing but viewing of  "Canis Major " star before disappearance from the horizon.