The Sanskrit word Veena in ancient and medieval Indian literature is a generic term for plucked string musical instruments. Veena is mentioned in the Rigveda, Samaveda and other Vedic literature such as the Shatapatha Brahmana and Taittiriya Samhita. In the ancient texts, Narada is credited with inventing the Veena, and is described as a seven string instrument with frets.According to Suneera Kasliwal, a professor of Music, in the ancient texts such as the Rigveda and Atharvaveda ( both pre-1000 BCE), as well as the Upanishads (c. 800–300 BCE), a string musical instrument is called Vana, a term that evolved to become Veena. The early Sanskrit texts call any stringed instrument as Vana, and these include bowed, plucked, one string, many strings, fretted, non-fretted, zither, lute or harp lyre style string instrument.

The Natya Shastra by Bharata Muni, the oldest surviving ancient Hindu text on classical music and performance arts,discusses Veena.The ancient epic Mahabharata describes sage Narada as a Vedic sage famed as a "vina player".

The oldest known Saraswati-like relief carvings are from Buddhist archaeological sites dated to 200 BCE, where she holds a harp-style Veena. The Natya Shastra describes a seven string instrument and other string instruments in thirty five verses, and then explains how the instrument should be played.