Maharishi Vedic City in Jefferson County is the only town in Iowa to be incorporated in the 21st Century. While most Iowa cities were established in the 1800s or 1900s, this town of nearly 1300 (as of the 2010 census) became official in November of 2001.
When Parsons College went bankrupt in the early 1970's, the Maharishi International University purchased the campus in nearby Fairfield and moved the school from California to Southeast Iowa. The university features a "consciousness-based education" system that includes the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.
It attracts students and faculty (and visitors!) from all over the world.
While Maharishi Vedic City is only about one square mile in size, it offers a lifestyle that is truly not found anywhere else in Iowa.
According to research I found online, "The city plan and buildings are based on Maharishi Sthapatya Veda, which is said to be an ancient system of architecture and design, revived by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Its goals are to "protect, nourish, and satisfy everyone, upholding the different social, cultural, and religious traditions while maintaining the integrity and progress of the city as a whole".
One of the most interesting aspects of the city is their Maharishi Vedic Observatory. Iowa Adventurer visited during warmer months in 2020 (in case you were wondering if it was actually summer in Jefferson County in February, it's not). It's a truly unique installation that is unlike any other in the entire world.
If you head down Observatory Drive, you'll find yourself in the place you are searching for.
There's a nice welcome sign, a request to be respectful, and some information about how to view the YouTube guided tour.
As they write on their website, "The Maharishi Vedic Observatory, a one and one-half acre open-air observatory of masonry sundials, is unique in the world for its ability to display in one compact form the whole structure of the universe along with all the movements of the sun, the planets, and the stars. It is the only complete example existing in the world today of this timeless knowledge."
Unless you are there with someone who truly understands the instruments and installations, you might be best following along on their official YouTube video which will give you a tour. As their website goes on to explain, "The centerpiece of the Maharishi Vedic Observatory is ten masonry astronomical instruments that are based on the principle of the sundial. As the earth turns and the sun moves overhead each day, the instruments cast shadows on their dials. From this one can tell the time, the day, and the positions of the stars and planets. Visitors understand the structure and laws of the universe by viewing the instruments."
The observatory is within a nice white gated square. There's a driveway all the way around it and there's opportunity to park on the side of the road.
"Visitors to the observatory will enjoy the experience of the their own inner intelligence and it's relationship to the orderly intelligence of the universe as displayed in the planets and stars. The result is increased balance of mind and body," they write on their website.
As someone who spent about 15 minutes walking around, I'm not sure that I quite experienced what they described. However, I did find it all to be both interesting and unique.
Each of the installations has a nice sign next to it that gives you the name of it.
These circles in the center really impressed me.
There's also more to visit and check out in Maharishi Vedic City and I'd like to return sometime and get a real "official" tour or perhaps at least take in the sights with someone who is more familiar with things. Of course, just next door, Fairfield is a town of more than 10,000 people and certainly no slouch when it comes to quality places to experience.
While my visit to Maharishi Vedic City and their observatory was relatively brief and I definitely did not understand how all the instruments worked, it is safe to say that it is a fascinating place that is unlike anywhere else in the world. Not to mention, I can now brag that I've been to the "youngest" city in Iowa.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Jefferson County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this site.