Naveen was born on 16 October 1946 in Cuttack to Biju Patnaik, former Chief Minister of Odisha, and his wife Gyan Patnaik. Lovingly called as ‘Pappu’ in his family and among his childhood friends, Naveen started his schooling at Cuttack’s St.Joseph’s convent. He moved to New Delhi after spending few years in Cuttack and started his studies at the prestigious Welham Boys' School in Dehradun. Later he moved to famous ‘The Doon School’, Dehradun and completed his senior Cambridge Certificate at the age of 17. He attended Kirori Mal College, Delhi University for his Bachelor's Degree in Arts. He was excellent in history, painting and athletics in school. He was a gifted painter and has a deep interest in history and culture. Patnaik is a noted writer and has written three books.
Despite being from an illustrious political family, he had for most part of his early life remained away from both politics. But after the demise of his legendary father Biju Patnaik he entered politics in 1997 and elected as a member to the 11th Lok Sabha in the by-election from Aska Parliamentary Constituency in Odisha.
In 26 December 1997, he founded the Biju Janata Dal, named after his father. Biju Janata Dal won the first state election with BJP as its alliance partner and formed the government in which Patnaik became Chief Minister.
His mild mannerism, firm stand against corruption and pro-poor policies have endeared him among masses and helped swell his huge support base in every sections of society in Odisha, which has voted him to power in the last four consecutive terms. Like his father, he led from the front, bringing together the party and state machinery to work for the development of the state.