Decidedly, if something is wooden and has an animal skin on it, it is double trouble. All items brought into Australia if wooden require both a customs and a quarantine tick. A customs duty is applied if the item is of a value above a certain amount like $100,000. So readers should check with customs department, the duty to be paid depending on how much they pay for the art work or an instrument like the Mridangam.
More importantly however a quarantine tick is required based on the material the mridangam or any other instrument is made up of. If its wooden the quarantine officers give it a visual once over, to ascertain whether there is any infestation of bacteria or other animal bodies being imported.
In addition to this if there is a component of animal skin, it gets an even further examination. The instrument will then be taken away for a Gama Ray treatment and any other treatments that the officers may consider necessary.
Describing the instrument and what it is made up of, will assist both you and the Quarantine Department. Most people know that the instrument is made up of wood and skin. What people fail to explain to a Quarantine official is what the ‘black stuff’ in the middle is made up of. So dont make that mistake. The black centre of a mridangam, thanks to wiki, is made up of rice flour, starch and ferrous oxide which lends it the black color. It is a solid and dry substance.
In the past, mridangams brought in for a concert Arungetram have met with a terrible fate to a point where the instrument has been completely destroyed.
When questioned, the Quarantine Department indicated to me that they cannot guarantee that the instrument will not be physically tampered with at the same time they do not set out to destroy an item.
Hence if you are importing an instrument, make a conscious effort to buy Mridangams that are made up of good quality treated wood and treated skin. Make sure you are able to provide the official with its value in dollars and are able to explain clearly the type of material it is constructed of, how old it is and for what purpose you chose to bring it into the country.
Experienced Mridangam players have advised Sydhwaney that the older good mridangams are a safe bet as in those instances both the wood and the skin have stood the test of time and are therefore better from a quarantine perspective. Good Luck !
Contact Customs Enquiries : 1300 363 263
Contact Quarantine Enquiries : 1800 020 504 [Wooden and Leather]