Adiga was born in the coastal village of Mogeri, Udupi district, in state of Karnataka on 18 February 1918. After completing his primary education in Mogeri and Baindooru, he attended high school in Kundapur, 14 miles away from his village. His education would have ended after high school, but for the foresight of his aunt, who, against the will of other family members, gave moral and monetary support for his college studies. Thus, Adiga went to Mysore and earned his BA (Hons) in English from Maharaja's College, Mysore, University of Mysore.
After several minor jobs in Karnataka, Adiga worked at Sarada Vilas College in Mysore as lecturer in English from 1948 to 1952, during which time he completed a master's degree from Nagpur University. He also served at St. Philomena College in Mysore for ten years. In the mid 1960s, he became Principal at the newly created Lal Bahadur Shashtri College in Sagara, and later at Poorna Prajna College in Udupi.
As editor of Saakshi magazine he helped bring Kannada literature to the masses.
Adiga's wife, Lalita, currently lives in Bangalore. He is survived by five children and nine grandchildren.
Adiga's grandson is Manu Raju, Senior Political reporter for CNN.
In the 1950s and 1960s Adiga was a teacher in Mysore. From 1964 until 1968 he was the principal of Lal Bahadur College in Sagara, and from 1968 until 1971 he was Principal of Poorna Prajna College in Udupi. He later worked as the Deputy Director for the National Book Trust of India.
Through his essays, translations and poems, Adiga’s influence on the modern Indian literature has been felt for over five decades. He has been called the doyen of the "naveena saahitya chaluvali" (the "modernist literary movement"). Although Adiga taught English literature, he wrote almost exclusively in Kannada, except for a single poem in English on Rabindranath Tagore in 1961. It seems that he wrote this at the request of M.N.Roy for the Radical Humanist magazine.
His style has been described as a response to the independence of India from British rule in 1947. The style called Navya was generally about the new times. Inspired by modern Western literature and Indian tradition, he set out to portray the "disillusionment and angst of the times".
Recently, Nadig brought out Selected Poems, Gopalakrishna Adiga (2007), a work commissioned by Bharatiya Sahitya Parishat (the Indian Academy of Literature.)
His poetic style is revealed in his 1957 poem "Prarthane" (Prayer).
PrayerBhavataranga - 1946
Ananthe - 1954 (novel)
Bhoomi Geetha - 1959
Mannina Vasane (book of essays) - 1966
Vardhamana - 1972
Idanna Bayasiralilla (poems) - 1975
Samagra Kavya (collection of poems) - 1976
 Sakshi (Magazine) - 1962
"ಇರುವುದೆಲ್ಲವ ಬಿಟ್ಟು ಇರದುದರೆಡೆಗೆ ತುಡಿವುದೆ ಜೀವನ" (Iruvudellava bittu iradudaredege tudivude jeevana)
plying the well-known pumps of heraldic praise
your hirelings bend double; others, gouty wagtails,
lick the land for crumbs; one snuffs his candle out
and seeks like a eunuch leech
the warm marshes in the cracks of light;
another sissy gives his back to the time-fed rumps
and sheathes his dagger deep.
I am not of these.
Life is leaving everything we have and craving for things which we do not have.."ಮೌನ ತಬ್ಬಿತು ನೆಲವ" (mouna tabbitu nelava)