Gopalkrishna Gandhi read English Literature and History at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University. He has been in administrative positions in Tamil Nadu and in Delhi, as a member of the Indian Administrative Service. He was Secretary to the President of India (1997-2000), Director of the Nehru Centre in the High Commission of India, London, High Commissioner for India in South Africa, Lesotho, Sri Lanka, and Ambassador of India in Norway and Iceland. He was Governor of West Bengal from 2004 to 2009.
The University of Natal, South Africa, conferred a Doctorate of Laws honoris causa on him in 1999, and the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, a Doctorate of Letters honoris causa in 2001. The University of Calcutta conferred on him a Doctorate of Literature, honoris causa in 2019. He received the Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Award of the University of Mysore in 2016, the Lal Bahadur Shastri Award in 2016 and the Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavana Award in 2018. In the Spring of 2020, he was a Fellow at the Center for Contemporary South Asia, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University, USA. His wife Tara, who is an ornithologist and nature conservationist and Gopalkrishna Gandhi live in Chennai and Bengaluru, spending as much time as they can in the Nilgiri hills, Tamil Nadu.