Kelirieng are huge burial poles that can be found in Sarawak. They are often ornately carved by the various indigenous tribes. Carving kelirieng poles is said to have originated among the Punan and was later adopted by other tribes inlcuding the Lahanan, Kayan and Kejaman. They were used to bury departed members of the tribe of high standing, such as the leader or aristocrat.|
Many of the kelirieng poles stand over thirty feet in height. Some are topped with a small hut, while others are simply covered with a stone slab. The body of the deceased is placed in an urn and laid inside the hut, or placed into the hollow of the trunk and covered with the stone slab. A couple of his slaves are often put to death and their bodies are placed alongside within the hut, or in lower niches within the trunk.
Only a few kelirieng poles are still standing in Sarawak today. A major fire that broke out in the Punan Bah village on 5 May 2008 destroyed five priceless kelirieng poles.
A kelirieng pole at the National Museum (9 October 2004)
© Timothy Tye using this photo
Kelirieng at the Sarawak Museum (1 October 2004)
© Timothy Tye