Cardinal Toppo was born on 15 October 1939 in Chainpur (India), the 8th of 10 children.
He studied in Ranchi and Rome. He speaks his native Oraon, as well as Hindu, Sadri, English and Italian.
He was ordained a priest on 3 May 1969.
He was appointed Bishop of Dumka on 8 June 1978 and consecrated on 7 October 1978 by Archbishop Kerkatta of Ranchi.
He was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Ranchi on 8 November 1984 and succeeded to full governance of the Archdiocese on 7 August 1985.
Pope John Paul II elevated him to the College of Cardinals on 21 October 1993.