Gangubai Hangal was born in Dharwad to Chikkurao Nadiger, an agriculturist and Ambabai, a vocalist of Carnatic music. 'Gangubai', as she was called in music circles, received only elementary education and her family shifted to Hubli in 1928.Initially, she learned classical music from Krishnacharya and Dattopant Desai before studying under Sawai Gandharva, a respected guru.She married Gururao Kaulgi, a Brahmin lawyer, at the age of 16. Her family was of low social status and for women of her generation singing was not considered appropriate employment; Gangubai struggled against this prejudice and made a career.
Gangubai Hangal served as honorary music professor of the Karnatak University. She was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honor, in 2002. She gave her last concert in March 2006 to mark her 75th career year. She had overcome bone marrow cancer in 2003, and died of cardiac arrest on 21 July 2009 in Hubli, where she resided. Krishna Hangal, Gangubai's daughter and accompanist, died from cancer in 2004, aged 75.
Gangubai hangal expired today in Hubli. She is survived by two sons.