Tucked away in the southeastern part of America's Heartland (AKA Iowa), lies a small, 1-square mile, hamlet of just a little over 250 people.* The town is located in Jefferson County In total there are about 140 households, and 48 families. According to the last census, the racial demographics of the town breakdowns as follows: 95% White, 1.5% African American, and 1.5% Asian. The official language of this Midwestern town: Sanskrit.
The town is Maharishi Vedic City (MVC), and it's a community based around the principles of the Veda, ancient Sanskrit texts that are focused on balance and natural law. There are five-people who sit on a city council that serves as the presiding body of government. The sale of non-organic food is completely banned in the city limits. In fact, MVC operates a very successful organic farming operation and distributes to the Whole Foods chain. After the city banned the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers it became America's first all-organic city.
MVC was incorporated in 2001 as "Vedic City", and a few months later was changed to "Maharishi Vedic City." The entire city plan is based on Maharishi Sthapatya Veda, which was "an ancient system of architecture and design, revived by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi," with the goals 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." There are 1,000 "experts" (i.e. pandits) who "gather twice daily to practice Transcendental Meditation and Yogic Flying to promote peace and harmony in the world."
In Maharishi Sthapatya Veda, all structures are built according to precise Vedic proportions with rooms placed according to the movement of the sun and entrances that face due east. In addition, each building includes an interior, silent core called a "brahmasthan", a perimeter boundary called a "vastu fence" and a gold-colored roof fixture called a "kalash".
The outdoor Maharishi Vedic Observatory consists of "ten, six feet tall, white, concrete-and-marble astronomical instruments arranged in a circle." Tim Fitz-Randolph is the man who developed the observatory, taking care that "each instrument is precisely aligned with the sun, moon and stars, and could be used to calculate their actual movements and has the potential to create inner happiness and balance in the physiology." There's also the Rukmapura Park Hotel, which is like your typical European inn, but with more Sanskrit. The Raj Ayur-Veda Health Center and Spa is a 100-acre spiritual retreat that offers health treatments, nature trails and lakes. There's even a First Friday Art Walk.
Bob Wynn is the mayor of MVC, as well as the Raja of the Center of Vedic America and of New Zealand. The town also houses the "headquarters for the Global Country of World Peace."
Over the past decade, more than $200 million in ventural capital has been invested in Vedic City companies. Initially, a dozen developers bought 3,000 acres of land, comprised of 50 farms. 1,200 acres became MVC, which was "arranged in ten circles totaling about one square mile, along with paved roads, utilities, sewage and Internet." Since 2003, the city has offered tours to the public, and has developed renewable energy sources made possible by grants from the Departments of Energy and Agriculture.
46 buildings were built in one year, including a hotel. By 2006, there were over 200 buildings in MVC. City planners had anticipated a population of over 1,000 people within 10 years. Currently, they're still about 800 people short. However, that's mostly because many people live in the campus located at the city's edge, and weren't initially counted in the official Census Bureau accounting. In fact, there were about 1,000 pandits (Sanskrit word for scholar, or learned person) who lived on the campus.
Oprah declared the city "America's Most Unusual Town" in 2011 after she visited.
In 2014 there was a large-scale protest involving 300-1000 Pandit meditators. The Pandits came over from India in 2007 as part of a program "to foster world peace through meditation." They came over on a religious visa, were paid $200 a month, of which they sent $150 back to their families each month. A popular Pandit was threatened with deportation and when the local sherriff arrived his car was damaged and resulted in an investigation into the compound conditions where the Pandits were kept segregated from the community.
In 2006, a reporter visiting from Los Angeles noted that the city "displays all the architectural characteristics of a new exurban development: gaudy, over sized construction that has no stylistic relation to its environment."
*The population also includes Pandits, though they weren't included in the last census. According to the city, the population is 1,290.
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