Kovind was born on 1 October 1945 in Paraukh village in the Kanpur Dehat district, Uttar Pradesh. His father Maikulal was a landless Kori (a Dalit weaving community) who ran a small shop to support his family. He was the youngest of five brothers and two sisters. He was born in a mud hut, which eventually collapsed. He was only five when his mother died of burns when their thatched dwelling caught fire. Kovind later donated the land to the community.
Ram Nath Kovind received 65.65% of the valid votes, against former Speaker of the Lok Sabha - Meira Kumar, the presidential candidate of the Opposition who received 34.35% of the total votes. Kovind received 2,930 votes (From MPs and MLAs) amounting to Electoral College votes of 702,044 (65.65%) as compared to 1,844 votes with a value of 367,314 (34.35%) votes for Meira Kumar lagging far behind with 367,314 votes, and 77 votes were invalid. He became only the second Dalit representative to become President after K. R. Narayanan, and also is the first BJP candidate to be elected to the post. The tally of votes (367,314) polled by Meira Kumar is only the second highest for a losing candidate, that of Neelam Sanjiva Reddy in the 1969 Presidential elections being the highest ever; he received 405,427 votes as against 420,077 by V V Giri, the winner.
Kovind enrolled as an advocate in 1971 with the bar council of Delhi. He was Central Government Advocate in the Delhi High Court from year 1977 to year 1979. Between 1977 & 1978, he also served as the personal assistant of Prime Minister of India Morarji Desai. In 1978, he became an advocate-on-record of the Supreme Court of India and served as a standing counsel for the Central Government in the Supreme Court of India from 1980 to 1993. He practiced in the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court until 1993. As an advocate, he provided pro-bono aid to weaker sections of society, women and the poor under the Free Legal Aid Society of New Delhi.
Kovind married Savita Kovind on 30 May 1974. They have a son, Prashant Kumar, and a daughter, Swati.
He joined the BJP in 1991. He was President of the BJP Dalit Morcha between 1998 and 2002 and President of the All-India Koli Samaj. He also served as national spokesperson of the party. He donated his ancestral home in Derapur to the RSS. Soon after joining the BJP, he contested for Ghatampur assembly constituency, but lost and later contested for Bhognipur (in 2007) (both in Uttar Pradesh) assembly constituency on the BJP ticket but lost again.
Before entering politics, he was a Lawyer for 16 years and practiced in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court until 1993.
He was elected and became a Rajya Sabha MP from the state of Uttar Pradesh in April 1994. He served a total of twelve years, two consecutive terms, until March 2006. As a member of parliament, he served on the Parliamentary Committee for Welfare of Scheduled Castes/Tribes, Home Affairs, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Social Justice and Empowerment, Law and Justice. He also served as the chairman of the Rajya Sabha House Committee. During his career as a parliamentarian, under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme, he focused on education in rural areas by helping in construction of school buildings in Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand. As a member of parliament, he visited Thailand, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom and the United States on study tours.
In 1997, Kovind joined the protest against certain orders from the Central government that had adverse effects on the SC/ST workers. Later, three amendments were made to the Constitution that revoked the orders, by the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
He has served on the Board of management of Dr. B.R Ambedkar University, Lucknow, and as on the Board of Governors of IIM Calcutta. He has also represented India at the UN and addressed the United Nations General Assembly in October 2002.
In 2010, he was reported to have said that "Islam and Christianity are alien to the nation" as spokesperson of the BJP. As reported by IANS and published by Hindustan Times, he made this comment in response to the Ranganath Misra Commission which recommended 15 percent reservation for religious and linguistic minorities in government jobs. Although more recently, the issue was raised in the media if whether or not he was misquoted and that he in fact said “Islam and Christianity are alien to the notion (of caste)” as opposed to what was reported as "nation".
On 8 August 2015, the then President of India appointed Kovind as Governor of Bihar. On 16 August 2015, the acting Chief Justice of Patna High Court, Iqbal Ahmad Ansari, administered the oath to Kovind as the 35th Governor of Bihar. The function took place at Raj Bhawan, Patna.
Ram Nath Kovind took the oath as the 14th President of India on 25 July 2017.